How inspiration and role models can be powerful sources in closing gender gap

3 October 2014 05:29 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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We all have our favourite TV shows – from the law enforcement shows such as Police Woman of yesteryear to LA Law, Law & Order Special Victims Unit and the Policewomen in real-life series to hit medical shows such as ER, Gray’s Anatomy, etc. These shows have all had strong female leads or support characters that have been found to inspire women to make deliberate choices of law enforcement, law and medicine.

As we all know, TV and films have always inspired us; whether living in Asia or the US, or anywhere else, given the global village that is the reality today, movies and TV that connect the world are also its greatest influencers. While TV and radio may be full of role models for specific careers, what about the others who want to pursue other careers and are talented?




Innovating Women  

According to Gender – Global Entrepreneurship & Development Index (Gender GEDI), there is a well-felt gap between finding role models, who can inspire women and the women aspiring to find such inspirations.

Vivek Wadhwa, who crowd-sourced and funded his book ‘Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology’ with Farai Chideya, says that according to his research, men and women of same educational levels share the same abilities when it comes to entrepreneurship and success. The only factor he says is that women tend to place a higher value on business partnerships and personal and professional networking than men do.

Women are often marginalized and left out of internal power structures, according to Whitney Johnson, the founder of Rose Park Advisors, an investment firm built on the principles of disruptive innovation. Johnson cites Harvard Business School Professor Boris Groysberg in Innovating Women.

Wadhwa encourages women to look outside the box – Innovating Women is full of role models for women, not just from the ranks of entrepreneurs but also corporate executives and venture capitalists.

All of us know how some of the world’s best known and recognised companies have been built on a singularly powerful idea that the founders were inspired to innovate. There are many men and women out there who continue to build strong businesses on ideas and concepts they were inspired to create. Without inspiration, businesses would not thrive; there would be no future even for the existing ones.

Potential to be inspired

There are smart women out there who have built successful businesses on ideas and concepts they themselves have experienced; clothing for larger sized customers, pregnancy fashions, childcare programmes and many other business ventures have been fired by needs felt by consumers. Still others have been inspired by the ways in which the existing companies have not fulfilled the identified needs.

Innovating Women features women from multi-disciplinary ranks. Among them are Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, a peer-to-peer microfinance organisation that connects entrepreneurs seeking funding with funders around the world, Mari Kuraishi, co-founder and President of Global Giving, an online marketplace, that connects those who do good work with those who want to support them, Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit global venture fund that uses an entrepreneurial approach to solving poverty worldwide, Danae Ringelmann, founder of Indiegogo, who helped create the crowdfunding industry and Lynn Tilton, founder and CEO of Patriarch Partners, a holding company with investment in more than 75 companies and revenues in excess of US $ 8 billion.

Most of the women mentioned here have been identified for their capacity and capability to go beyond the traditional profit-oriented business concepts. With crowdfunding becoming a popular and a powerful platform throughout the world, women are finding avenues to build businesses and concepts, even to change the world, easy to come by.

Concepts that a few years ago may have been limited to paper or worse still, end up in waste paper baskets for want of funding are now being backed and funded by people around the world. Thus, in real terms, potential to be inspired enough to do something about a passion or an idea is huge.

Changing the perspective

Wadhwa’s research, according to Forbes, further confirms that women thrive in business when other women step forward or take the trouble to mentor and inspire other women. That seems to be relevant especially when you take into account the fact that women everywhere more or less have to deal with the same issues of childrearing, managing households and of course, managing a company or a career in the middle of all of that.

To know that another woman has been through it and is able to assure you that children do grow up and that household duties don’t last forever but can be managed, is in itself an inspiration.

Thus, at the end of the day, inspiration is what most women – and men would need to change the perspective and start thinking outside the box. Inspiration can come from just about anywhere – a film, a TV show, a book or someone whom you know. The talent is in identifying what inspiration drives you enough to go out there and make the difference.

(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at nayominiweerasooriya@gmail.com)
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