I heard Anne Miner say, “Be a Possibility Model” several times before I got up the courage to ask her what she meant. I was familiar with the term “role model,” but Anne seemed to be expecting something else.
Anne was happy to explain!
First, she reminded me that a role model is someone worthy of imitation.
And, she told me that she was raised to “set a good example,” to be a role model, for her siblings (her brothers and her sister). While being a role model for her sister might be a good thing, Anne did not want any of her siblings to be exactly like her.
She wanted to be more than a role model.
Anne Miner wanted to be a Possibility Model, someone who shows others what is possible, not only what is possible for her, but what is possible for them too!
Anne went on to explain that she grew up in an age of emerging feminism, a time when girls were all told they could be “anything they put their minds to.” But, as a girl and then a young woman, she didn’t see women reporting the news, piloting airplanes, going into outer space, running companies, leading countries, or sitting on boards. The role models of the time were mainly teachers, nurses, librarians, and store clerks.
During the 1970s, when Anne was an impressionable young woman:
Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes co-founded Ms. magazine
Barbara Walters became the first US Television News Anchor
Sally Ride (who would later be the first female American Astronaut in Space) admitted to NASA’s astronaut program
The 1977 Canadian Human Rights Act, protecting women against discrimination based on their gender passed into law in Canada
Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister of Britain, and
Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize.
These women were Possibility Models showing that women CAN perform effectively in these roles!
While young women may not have chosen to imitate these or other women who kicked and scratched and scrabbled and scraped their way into these roles, they certainly could see the Possibilities! And, like Anne, they were inspired and enabled to step into roles that had traditionally been the exclusive domain of men.
In the intervening half-century, while they have progressed into virtually every possible role, women have not yet secured gender equity in the workplace.
[Did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the American Constitution, designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex, has not yet been ratified? Although passed by the American Congress in 1973, it was not ratified by the required number of states before the deadline.]
In 2020, women must continue to strive for gender equity in many aspects of life. Today, as did women in the 1970s, we have a responsibility to demonstrate to those who follow us - if you can see me, you can be me - and be Possibility Models!