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Monica Bassili

Female Role Models and Next Generation of Women

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Mirroring Power: How Female Role Models Shape the Next Generation of Women

Monica Bassili



Take a moment and think – who were your role models growing up?


Celebrities? Parents? Relatives? At the start of our lives, we are surrounded by many human relationships from which we can draw positive lessons. Every person who at some point comes into our lives, whether or not these relationships produce adverse results, has a reason for being there. 


Although it does not feel like it at the time, people we meet have an incredible value to who we are and, further, who we choose to be. For example, reluctantly, women who have been brought up into a submissive frame of mind have challenges engaging and getting involved in leadership and projects. Therefore, seeing strong, confident, and successful women in powerful positions gives the impression that these positions are attainable for the entire population. 


My role models did not fall under the family or entertainment categories growing up. Instead, I found amazingly patient, resilient, and accomplished women every day in school. What I did not see in my everyday home life, I regularly saw in my academic career. Female teachers have a powerful influence over their students, and specifically, female students can find someone who is willing and able to guide them professionally and academically. 


The first female role model I had growing up was a teacher from Maple Creek Middle School in Port Coquitlam, where she implemented a “class economy.” This exercise was to engage students in an economic environment similar to real-life in which students can earn francs and manage their desks and well-being. 


Shaping Your Path


My teacher understood that I was not explicitly included in anything, just really being tacked onto other social groups, and she talked with me and inspired me to achieve success. I would regularly be at school early and leave late, sometimes later than the teacher herself, but she always kept me company and encouraged me to do my best. I had not previously had an opportunity to hear these words of encouragement before, as if it was meant for people other than myself. 


Hearing kind words and being encouraged can seem like a small or vain effort. But, in reality, they have profound effects. No one can read minds, and no one truly understands what another person needs or wants without vocalizing it. It is all up to individual interpretation without actually expressing how someone is doing in another’s eyes. So often put an earnest and mostly illusionary expectation on ourselves because we have learned only to accept a certain standard. 


Lifting Each Other Up


What is important to remember is that everything we accumulate throughout our lives, experiences and relations all serve to lift one another. I truly appreciated the concept of relationality when I had my next foundational role model at Dr. Charles Best Secondary in Coquitlam. My teacher not only inspired me and encouraged me to achieve the best I could, but she also included one of the most important teachings I had the pleasure of experiencing. 


The school district nominated my teacher for the 2019 Indigenous Education Award for the Premier͛s Awards for Excellence in Education. My first genuine exposure to the reality of Indigenous people in Canada was as a student in French Immersion social studies. What I observed and understood from the emphasis on the realities experienced by Indigenous people is that this was a hidden and taboo topic of conversation. Although I understood life as a brown girl, I neglected to understand the variability of “brown” and what that meant for other women.


Relationality and Empowerment 


During my time in this social studies class, I attended a conference on globalization given by Wab Kinew. I participated in the conference with my teacher as my peers were not keen on attending. However, I learned from Kinew more than any grade school class could provide. So often, the interconnectedness of all living beings on earth and the depth of expertise among Indigenous nations and communities are overlooked. 


From the broadest sense, we are all connected. There is always an overarching connection with other living beings in whatever creation myth or personal belief one chooses to adopt. I cannot stress enough that women need to lift other women. Being a “feminist” in today’s sense often eliminated the intersectionality required to uplift women of colour, LGBTQ+, and women with disabilities. Notwithstanding the limitations of feminism, active and daily work to uplift other women is a foundational step in motivating an entire group of people. 


Growing is Challenging 


Developing and growing as an individual is thus complex and requires more than just quick thinking. However, by learning and growing through the experiences and teachings of other women, an emerging generation of young women has access to a vast amount of resources and opportunities. 


Mirroring Power 


Further, learning about new experiences and realities from others from across the globe is vital in positioning ourselves within our communities. Without understanding Indigenous ways of being and knowing, I would have been narrow in focus and would not have pursued further studies. In this sense, women and their multiplicities must be learnt and understood in multiple contexts. The next generation of young women can collect these concepts and make a true impact on society. 


After all, if one woman can do it, all women ought to be able to as well. Mirroring the best qualities of your role model does not reflect weakness or self-doubt. Instead, echoing the power expressed by your role model shows that you have not only understood their strength but also analyzed and reflected on it to the extent that interpersonal qualities can be identified. 


Women and Challenging the Status Quo


Women in power have vital characteristics such as resilience, persistence, skill, strength, courage, and passion, whether they are in politics, business, or grassroots positions of influence. Being able to appreciate the multitude of qualities demonstrated by women benefits personal development and exemplifies young women. Therefore, relationality and understanding one another as human beings underscores our relationships and ways of knowing. 


With women’s continued encouragement and empowerment, the day will come when these critical concepts of relationality will become an ongoing and active thread of reflection in society and policy.


Monica Bassili is a thought leader and a columnist with

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