What Kind of Role Model Are You?

Months ago, fellow contributor Debbie J. Brown wrote about her role model and the difference it made for her having one. I think it’s awesome that she has someone that she can look to for inspiration, however, that’s not always the case.

We’ve talked a lot about mentors and role models on this site, (here and here for example) and I think there is a reason why. Even though women now have a slight majority in the workplace, we are still vastly under-represented in executive level/management/leadership roles. I’m confident that will change, given time, but I think it is also clear that we keep talking about role models because, as women, we feel we need more of them.

Here’s the problem though: we already have plenty of role models.

They are everywhere – at work, in our families, on the television, and in our communities. Every woman in our lives is a role model in their own way. We can’t help but be influenced by them and learn from them.

The real question we should be asking ourselves is not, “Who are our role models?” but “What kind of role models are they?” Do the women around us encourage our development? Do they want us to succeed? Do they provide us with the right kind of examples to emulate? In what areas of our life do we actually want them to influence? And maybe more importantly, if our role models are the women around us, then aren’t we role models to them as well?

What kind of example are you providing to others?

Personally, I don’t have any one woman, or man for that matter, that I can point to and say they were my role model. So many people have helped shape who I am, in many different ways, for good and bad. Some have been role models if only to know what i should NOT do. And that’s ok. Role models are like the advice they provide – take it all with a grain of salt knowing that no matter their intentions, you need to do what is best for you in the end.

Trust yourself and your own judgment. And if you find yourself not liking the role models that you have, go find some new ones. You’re influenced by them more than you think.

About the Author

Shauna Moerke

Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master's degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR, is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show, and blogs at her own site as the HR Minion.


Stephanie Kempa

Great post, Shauna. I’ve always felt it’s important to be a role model as a woman in business. Early in my career I found very few women reaching higher levels of responsibility unless that’s all they did in life. Thankfully that has changed a lot.

As a working mom it’s important to me to role model that you can have success in a career and a balanced life – you have to prioritize and constantly balance, but it’s not an either/or choice. People have to see that in action to believe it. When you’re achieving that, you’re automatically role modeling to others.

Shauna Moerke

Debbie – Thanks to you and all the other great contributors on this site, you are all role models to me. 🙂

Jay – I hope that awareness also forces us to not take the people around us for granted too, thanks for the comment!

Jay Kuhns

Good post Shauna. I love the concept of role models not only because it challenges us to be aware of others who are effective. But, it forces us to step back and realize that we, as leaders, also serve in that capacity – whether we know it or not. As you said, “What example are we providing to others?”

Well done.


Bravo Shauns, great post.
Many people don’t set out in life thinking of themselves as role models and yet we all have that opportunity every day to pay it forward for others and seek others out. inspiration is a unique quality.


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