Beyond the Headlines: How to Find Role Models with Expertise

by Emily Jasper on March 16, 2011

This month I was asked to write a guest post for Gloria Feldt’s 9 Ways BlogGloria Feldt is a nationally renowned activist and author, whose passion for social justice has propelled her life’s work. Her new book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, was published by Seal Press in October 2010. It reveals why women are stuck at 18% of top leadership roles and, through both inspirational stories and practical tools, shows how women can redefine power, lead themselves with intention, and reach parity from the boardroom to the bedroom for good—their own and society’s. Feldt’s previous books include the New York Times bestseller Send Yourself Roses, co-authored with actress Kathleen Turner, Behind Every Choice Is a Story, and The War on Choice.

Women’s History Month always gets me thinking about role models. It’s been argued that finding women who are role models for our future female leaders can be a little tricky. When reports include the fact that women still make up only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs, I see what the proverbial they are saying. Most of us look to our mothers, teachers, and community leaders if we feel like it’s hard to find someone else in the limelight who really is a role model.

I realized about a year ago, however, the women who are my role models are leaders because of their expertise and what they do with it.

Most of my role models are female journalists and writers. While they are successful at reporting, I’m really attracted to their proficiency and passion. These women take all the education and wisdom they’ve learned from being on the leading edge of news or research, and they share it with us in the telling of stories.

During the week, I begin my mornings with Becky Quick and the “Squawk Box” CNBC team. When I first started watching the show, I was struck by Becky’s speed and agility when covering topics that can literally change as reports come out by the minute. She might have some prep material in front of her, but it’s her expertise that allows her to shift on a dime when a guest host takes the interview in a different direction or puts her on the spot for her opinion on ObamaCare or inflation. She’s got the background to hold her ground, something I’ve noticed with all the CNBC women.

If I get a break in between classes and work, sometimes I catch fellow Hokie Hoda Kotb on “TODAY.” I feel that we must meet our alumni, and while I haven’t met Hoda face-to-face, her book includes stories about persistence, including driving all across the south-eastern U.S. for days on end, job rejection after job rejection. She’s resilient, and we see that each day that she fights for people to find understanding, live life, and love strongly.

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with some other amazing writers. Fast Company’s Ellen McGirtshared with me some of what inspires her to be a great writer, to find the stories that will resonate with readers. Author Selena Rezvani came to speak at our campus for an event called “Women, Words, and Wisdom.” She talked about the need to take risks and be active in our career development.

Financial journalist Julie MacIntosh shared with me her experience writing about the financial world that gave her insight on how to be a woman in a predominately male world. Those experiences led her to capture the story of the InBev takeover of Anheuser Busch in a manner that really painted a picture of the people, not just the business. Finally, Jenna Goudreau and Caroline Howard at ForbesWoman have been leaders in thinking about issues women really need to discuss, bringing forums for conversation to women all over the world.

If I didn’t have these women in my life, no matter what form, I might not realize the potential all of us have. Think of the expertise you could develop just by learning and telling stories. Imagine what else you could do with that if you applied lessons learned.

Think outside the box a little the next time you’re wondering where the women role models are. You might just need to turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper.

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