We wanted to investigate if there could be a more democratic way of finding and exposing role models for women and men.
By Alessandra Lariu (Co-Founder, SheSays)

Who is your work/career role model? Marissa Mayer? Sheryl Sandberg? Your mom? How many women actually have female role models? A few colleagues quietly confessed that most of theirs were men, not only that but they regretfully admitted that the most sound career advice they ever received was from their male bosses. There’s nothing wrong with that but this type of anecdotal information indicates that most women don’t have other women to look up to.

Role models at work are important for obvious reasons: among other things, they are proof that whatever you dreamt of career wise can be achieved. And the importance of having great advice fills the pages of sites like Women 2.0.

The way most people find their career role models is looking through the “whos’s who” lists the press puts out about their industry. In many cases, role models take a form of power lists like “Most influential women in this”, “Top 25 women in that”, “Most powerful women blah/blank”, you name it. While I praise and have been fortunate to appear in lists like these, I did start to wonder if we’re making role models too inaccessible. Don’t get me wrong, I think the lists are valid but could we create something between a free for all and something heavily curated?

As the co-founder of SheSays, our approach to advancing women’s careers was always accessible and democratic – we have a free award scheme, a free mentorship scheme called ‘who’s your momma’ and are always showcasing future superstars as opposed to ‘big names’ at our events. With accessibility in mind, we wanted to investigate if there could be a more democratic way of finding and exposing role models for women and men.

As we dug deeper into the subject, we found PHL and Equalisters, two great organizations who are taking a different approach to giving women the exposure they deserve. Together, we set out to make role models more democratic. We opted to use simple technology to do something (yes, contrary to popular belief women are big doers rather than big talkers) to make an alternative index to complement to the ‘super lists’ out there.

Because technology allows us to actively do something to solve a problem we’ve created a widget called Find A Token Woman where anyone can nominate an amazing woman in a specific industry.

Our open-source list of notable women is starting small with 4 categories and 65 names but the idea is to create a living-breathing catalogue where it’s up to women to suggest other women. And it’s up to people looking at the list to personally curate them. If it sounds like a crazy experiment that’s because it is.

The list’s success depends on you. So please contribute to it by commenting on each post with your suggested names. You can also send category suggestions to hello@weareshesays.com. And finally, help spread the word and embed the widget in your blog to help us uncover role models for women and give them the exposure they deserve.

Women 2.0 readers: Who is your role model?

About the guest blogger: Alessandra Lariu is the Co-Founder of SheSays and the CEO of Shout. SheSays is a 5 year old an award-winning global network organization focused on the engagement, education and advancement of women in digital marketing and advertising. Alessandra has been kicking ass for as long as she can remember. Most recently, she was SVP Group Creative Director at McCann. In 2010, she was picked by Fast Company magazine as number 29 out of the 100 most creative people in business.