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A lot of comments I’ve seen in recent days about women and their lack of progress in certain areas have touched on the ‘lack of good role models‘. I’m bothered.

Maybe my position is extreme, but why do we need role models for everything? If you see something to which you aspire, is the argument that you cannot go for it unless you see that someone (like you, presumably) has gone there already? Is there a fear that is larger that comes from being a pioneer?

I thought quickly back to some Jamaicans who have done without ‘appropriate’ role models. Who inspired Jamaica’s Iditarod competitor?

Newton Marhall, Iditarod musher

Newton Marshall, Iditarod musher

We can ask the same question about the now-famed Jamaican bobsledders.

Of course, we can look back and see people like ourselves who have achieved great things, but is our only inspiration that ‘someone has beaten the path before me’?

Maybe, and maybe we will be great followers and not great leaders.

Who inspired Mary Seacole, to head from Jamaica to the Crimea to tend British soldiers during the Crimean War in the 1850s? But, if she is not a role model, then who is or will be?

Who inspired the first woman astronaut? Now that there are several, are many more women flocking to head off into space or train as aeronautical engineers?

Women in space, serving together on the International Space Station on April 14, 2010

Women in space, serving together on the International Space Station on April 14, 2010

Is it that we have to see success before we try to succeed? We cannot tolerate the failure of others and see anything for us in the challenge of trying to succeed?

Yes, there are barriers, some natural, some artificial (literally, man-made). We refuse to go past those or see them as insurmountable?

We think those who have gone there before have paved a smooth path? Think again. Many who have trodden the path do little or nothing to facilitate the way for others behind, even blocking. That’s part of the human condition. Not nice to admit, but real enough.

My daughter keeps asking me who will she be like when she grows up, her mother or her father? I say, “You’ll be you. Maybe looking like a mix of us, but maybe not.” Children get inspiration from their parents and other adults, from their peers and their siblings (older and younger), from some fictional and real characters that they encounter in books, or on television or films or on the radio.

Adults should have already gone through their early stages of inspiration by the time they reach that stage. But, can still be open to much inspiration from many sources.

Some adults seem conflicted: telling children to believe “Yes, you can,” then taking the line for themselves “No, I can’t,”.

I often end up citing Gandhi’s ‘be the change’ quotation, but this time I will go to the verifiable remark:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

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