If you can see yourself in your heroes, you're more likely to aspire to be like them.
For years, researchers have studied the Role Model Effect - the phenomenon where people's ambitions and expectations are higher if they can identify with a person they admire.
To name just a few examples:
- An MIT study in India found that, in areas where women served in local governments, teenage girls and their parents had much higher educational goals, compared to areas where only men served on local governments and educational expectations were much higher for boys than for girls.
- A Johns Hopkins University study in the US found that low-income Black students who had at least one Black teacher in elementary school were less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to express interest in college when they graduated.
- Multiple studies have looked at the effects of female role models in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields and found that women who are exposed to other women who have been successful in these fields have more STEM ambitions, a greater sense of belonging in STEM environments, and higher academic achievement in STEM courses.
Gender balance consultant Lyndsey Oliver suggests that we also seek out relationships with "real models" - people in our orbit who have traits or achievements that we admire.
Relatable role models help us see our own potential. We can imagine ourselves in their shoes, and that motivates us to do the hard work that it takes to get there. It also helps to know that we'll have a supportive community of people who understand our experiences and challenges.
At Spice! camps we present girls+ with a diverse set of inspirational and relatable role models and real models in Ottawa, in Canada and around the world. Campers use historical role models as a launching point to learn about Canadian history and politics, and to practice their research and public-speaking skills. They meet people who are working on transformative projects right here in our city. They even get to be real models for each other, as they grow into brilliant leaders.