My role models in journalism, by sheer luck, have been women right from the start. It started early, with a cartoon character called Karla Kolumna, but it moved on quickly from there to the editor of the local paper that would become my first employer when I turned 16. Ever since, the most inspirational editors and many of the best journalists I’ve encountered have been women.
They weren’t my only role models, but they were a constant presence. Seeing them at work is where I learned most from them. My first boss – a formidable woman with bright-red hair and a beaten up silver VW Beatle – taught me the importance of a nose for news and a real interest in people, but also that the work of a journalist never ends. Even at social events, she would be standing by the window the second she heard a siren and rushing to the phone shortly after to establish if a reporter should be heading to the scene of the incident.
Much later, inspirational journalists such as the late, great war correspondent Marie Colvin demonstrated the variety of paths I could be following – and the tenacity and determination required.
Research shows that when it comes to apprenticeships and technical education, girls heading into careers traditionally seen as “male” rarely meet female role models. According to today’s report by WorldSkills UK and the Careers and Enterprise Company, some young women feel there are routes where their gender is a barrier.
Female role models exist in all lines of work. We just have to get better at highlighting them. Education institutions cannot do this alone. Employers need to identify role models and make sure they are able to visit colleges and schools to pass on the message.
Encouraging young women – and the same applies for young men in traditionally female careers – down a lesser-walked path is much easier when they can see someone ahead, carrying a torch.