In my Leadership/Student Government class, after giving a presentation on the legacy of the incredible and groundbreaking black female journalist Gwen Ifill, my teacher asked why it was important that diversity was present in the media and beyond. It took me aback, and somehow none of the group I presented with had an answer, yet without a doubt we knew it was essential. It’s a question that I have since spent a lot of time thinking about, and it has led me to understand the power and importance of role models.
I have grown up considering myself fairly self-confident. Never once did I back down from something simply because I was a girl. In fact, I often liked to prove that I was just one of the boys. When my brothers built Lego towers, I built a bigger one, with room for a storyline to be played out. When teams were picked for recess sports, my two best girlfriends and I were often the first picks, but we played with more strategy than tackling. I didn’t question running for school president in sixth grade, nor did I in my junior year of high school.
I largely attribute this to the female role models I’ve had in my life, my mother being the central one. Apparently our determination to defy expectations is one that runs in the family. Being able to witness her phenomenal strength and leadership as a woman has been a privilege that I take for granted all too often.
My favorite teacher from elementary school, Mrs. Urban (who– fun fact– I never actually had, but I loved her so much that pretended I did), played such a huge role during that time in my life because, as a 10 year old, she treated me like a real person, taught me that a pen is a powerful weapon, and showed me that I have a lot to offer to the world that is completely unique from anyone else.
I still chuckle at the fact that, in elementary school, I had two incredible Godly women, Holly and Allison, as one-on-one mentors in my life. I still keep in touch with both of them and continue to admire and look up to who they are. But the habit of having an older, wiser, more experienced Godly woman walk alongside me in my faith is one that was instilled in me, so I am forever grateful for those two initial women who inspired and fueled my love for Jesus by displaying theirs.
More recently, one of the most incredible women I have ever met, Teresa Goines, has inspired me as a beloved daughter of God. She founded a supper club run by at-risk youth in San Francisco and is a good friend of my mom’s. Each conversation I have with her I leave inspired to go change the world. That’s just the presence she has. She encourages me to be bold and to lean fully into the life God has for me, and I know that those aren’t empty words because her life is evidence enough of the fruit that comes from that.
I love that I have two female soccer coaches (one of whom is also one of the best teachers I’ve ever had) to look up to. When we have team bonding and there are 18 high school girls, all at a pivotal points in our lives, captivated by two strong, caring, thoughtful, funny, and feisty women, that is truly a privilege.
So why is diversity important? Because role models are essential. Gwen Ifill spoke of how, as a young girl, she never saw women or people of color on TV, and how her dream was for young people, not just girls, to not question seeing a woman of color covering the news. She challenged others’ expectations and lived a life worth modeling so that a new generation could be as bold.
I am confident because my role models are. I understand my value because it was ingrained in me since I was a little girl. This is a blessing that I cannot comprehend and do not deserve, but as far as I’m concerned, the only way to honor these incredible women is to live my life with such confidence, passion, grace, selflessness, and kindness that it is worth exemplifying.