From a young age, parents should actively guide their children towards looking up to and emulating a role model. Of course, this role model can change with time, as the child grows up. But having an idol can go a long way in helping children work relentlessly towards their passion, and if they face challenges on the path, the motivation that this role model can give is unparalleled.
As I mentioned earlier, my personal role model is my mother—a working professional who raised a family wonderfully while managing her career. She inspired me to be an ambitious woman myself. From her, I learned to pursue my passion in parallel with having a family. She always planned her days meticulously, leveraging help from my grandparents, father, domestic help and crèche facilities. In later years, when my sister and I were in our teens, she trusted us to be competent enough to take care of ourselves. She always knew how to manage every aspect of her life; she was the Wonder Woman I had around me at every phase of my life. Following her path, I too entered the world of finance. Her success inspired me and pushed me to give my best academically.
It is refreshing to see that now women have several female role models in various fields—academics, sports and business—of which there was a dearth earlier. For instance, I have noticed in recent years that cricket in India is gaining traction among young girls, with the successive exemplary performances of our women’s team. This has led to many girls looking up to Mithali Raj (captain of the Indian women’s national cricket team) as their role model and in pursuing professional cricket. Such idols are not just limited to cricket. Badminton has P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, tennis has Sania Mirza, athletics has Dutee Chand and Hima Das and boxing has Mary Kom, among other shining examples. We are now seeing more girls taking up sports professionally and harbouring ambitions of representing India internationally one day.
To see an admirable and relatable role model shattering the glass ceiling and creating records gives many others the firepower and motivation to attempt it too. Typically, people get inspired to do something when they see others do it. When women see other women in successful roles, they find it easier to aspire to the same heights. Seeing more women in leadership positions will not only encourage others, but also make their parents, their peers and the larger community aware of the immense possibilities open to young girls. But it is not just female idols who can inspire women—men can be role models too! A role model should not be picked on the basis of their gender. Cricketer Shafali Verma became the youngest Indian to hit an international halfcentury at the age of 15. By hitting this 50, she broke the 30-year-old record of Sachin Tendulkar, who was 16 when he hit his first test half-century. Interestingly, Shafali’s professional role model is Sachin Tendulkar. Her personal inspiration and support has been her father, who wanted to become a cricketer himself but could not because of family pressures. Similarly, Sheryl Sandberg’s professional role model is Mark Zuckerberg, just as Warren Buffett is the role model for several women who want to be amazing investors and great leaders. Male leaders who understand the importance of workplace diversity and encourage it are also an inspiration, a positive reinforcement to give wings to ambitions.
As a young woman, make your choices freely. Pursue your dreams—you may want to get out in the world or you may be someone whose happiness lies in staying home. The key is to make your own choices, free of any guilt, and not to fall in the die-cast of society’s expectations. …
For the current generation of young women, I say that you must learn to be confident in your own life choices, to value yourself for the contribution you make by either staying at home or by stepping out. Be the change you want to see in the world. You are the only person who can change your life. The change will come about slowly, one day at a time; don’t lose hope. Eventually, you will learn to love yourself and to value your dreams.
Just like you work relentlessly for your family, you have to find the motivation in yourself to work for your dreams. Make your own choices from a position of self-belief, not as a compromise or because somebody else made the choice for you. There’s simply no age barrier to do this! You may be a young woman just starting out, in your 30s and 40s, married with young kids or even older, with years of wisdom behind you. Take that first step in the journey of valuing yourself and pursuing your passion.
Excerpted with permission from Awakening the Rainmaker by Nishtha Anand, published by Bloomsbury India