How to be a role model

How to be a role model

Our offices are buzzing with anticipation for #LEAP23 – and we’ve been feeding the buzz by interviewing our upcoming keynote speakers to get a hint of the wisdom to come. Here’s a little of what they said.


This week we’re quoting…

Carine de Meyere (President and Founder at Women of the World)

What de Meyere said: 

“I am happy that I can be a beacon of light and hope, of inspiration, of positive energy…I want to be seen as a human mentor – telling my mentees to first of all be a human being and then a professional.” 

How important are role models?

Meyere’s words got us thinking about role models, and how much they really matter. Can a role model be a key motivator to help young entrepreneurs build successful careers in tech, and develop world-changing products and services?

What’s the difference between having a role model and…not having one?

We went looking for some hard evidence, and this is what we found: 

  • One 2022 study looked at the impact of role models, heroes and mentors on adolescents, and found that the young people with adult mentors had higher levels of happiness, and greater interest in education – which is predictive of future ability and motivation in their careers.
  • This review of research considered the impact of role models on older people, and showed that role models are crucial for career development well past adolescence and our early 20s – people with positive role models are more likely to be adaptable, innovative, and able to redirect and reshape their careers with the changing times around them. 
  • A review published by the American Psychological Association way back in 2002 suggested that people with different psychological patterns need different kinds of mentors – for example, people who are motivated by the idea of promotion and forward-motion are most inspired by positive role models who are focused on strategies for achieving success; while people who are motivated by the idea of avoiding failure are most inspired by negative role models who focus on strategies for avoiding failure.
  • And this study looked at how role models influence career choices for female surgical residents in Saudi Arabia. It may be more niche than the other research we looked at, but the findings are relevant to anyone considering the importance of role models in tech: 78.4% of female surgical residents had a role model, and 67.5% of those said their role model had a positive influence on their career choice. The skill of the role model came up top as the most important and influential factor, suggesting that although having a relatable role model was also significant, simply having access to people who do something really well (even if those people are of a different demographic) is the most important thing.

Spotlight on: Role models for gender diversity in tech

Role models are important for everyone. But in tech, role models are particularly important to help drive more gender diversity across the industry, and at all levels – from experimental innovators to corporation CEOs.

Here’s what happens when gender-diverse role models appear on the scene:

  • More women and gender-diverse individuals are inspired to pursue careers in tech. This study, for example, found that female students are more likely to major in STEM when they’re assigned a female professor; and when women see other women in leadership positions, they’re empowered to strive for similar roles.
  • Men realise that women and non-binary people can do the job. One study conducted during a women’s leadership initiative in India found that men were more likely to vote for female leaders if they’d been exposed to women in leadership positions in their own villages at least twice. If men only see male CEOs, they assume only men can do the job. If they see gender-diverse CEOs, they’re more likely to champion diversity in the industry. 

But diversity of role models doesn’t just mean they have to be demographically diverse…

Yes – it’s good for people to see people like them (whether that means gender-diverse, racially diverse, socio-economically diverse, or age-diverse) doing the kinds of work they dream of doing. 

But at the same time, men can be role models for women. Women can be role models for non-binary entrepreneurs. Etc…


By being diverse in the messages they communicate. 

For example, if a man gives a keynote presentation that focuses not only on his tech achievements, but on his position as a father; as a part of a family; and explores how he juggles the pressures and demands of work with his family life and opens up about how hard that is sometimes – he could be acting as a role model for women who haven’t heard many high-level tech industry players speak openly about those challenges. 

Just as Meyere said, we’re all humans first. And everyone has the potential to be an empowering, uplifting role model if they put their humanness front-and-centre in the way they talk about their work. 

Read the interview: When you make space for women, you make space for growth 



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