By Nicole Smartt, VP/co-owner, Star Staffing.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Make it Happen.” I love this adage because it hints at a call to action and reveals an expectation of success, a call to achieve one’s dreams. This is particularly important for women today.
A big ingredient in the success recipe is the presence of role models, people who can inspire us to make our goals happen. There’s a big difference between being a good mentor and being a good role model. Mentorship is a personalized, tailored experience for each situation. It’s a hands-on and often rich experience for both parties. Being a role model, on the other hand, requires a high level of public integrity, especially for successful women. Opportunities to get slandered abound, for one. Whether you’re a CEO or an actress, your every action is scrutinized — from appearance to life decisions (that likely have no business becoming public knowledge) to the behavior of your colleagues and friends.
Regrettably, many so-called role models do use their appearance, inheritance or family successes to make bucks. Young women still look up to these public figures, in part because that’s all they see; as a result, their shortcomings have almost completely overwhelmed the message of intelligence, class and success that are the real keys to women’s success.
In service of getting a more positive message (which exists!) into the public eye, here are a few alternatives to pandering to the lowest common denominator, inspired by some of the most exciting — and very public — role models on the red carpet. To honor International Women’s Day, I choose to be inspired by these four exceptional women and their unique approach to public life:
Funny: Amy Pohler. She is impossibly funny but the gift of comedy is not all she has given us. Between laughter, Amy manages to inspire and support young women via social media, you can check out her web series called “Ask Amy,” in which she answers questions from young girls seeking advice.
Serious: Malala Yousafzai . Ask what Malala would do. Raise your voice when you see wrongheaded thinking in action. Malala advocates equal education opportunities. She was shot for her message, but she didn’t stop. She did quite the opposite.
Inspirational: Jennifer Lawrence. Not only does Jennifer refuse to lose unhealthy amounts of weight for her acting roles, she borders on flippant at red carpet events. She operates outside the game, and the Internet loves her for it. Her position makes her an approachable, real-human woman with opinions, talents and imperfections.
Magical: Emma Watson. Emma is wise beyond her years. She is an inspiration not only to young women but to women of all ages. I was touched by her passionate call for gender equality and the hope for a world where there are no boundaries for what women can achieve. It is no surprise that Emma truly inspires with a magic touch!
Nicole Smartt is the Vice President and co-owner of Star Staffing. She was awarded the Forty Under 40 award, recognizing business leaders under the age of 40. In addition, Nicole co-founded the Petaluma Young Professionals Network, an organization dedicated to helping young professionals strive in the business world. Nicole can be found on twitter; @StaffingqueenN.