Let me assure you - the headline above is not a blunder. I am dead serious. Men do need female role models and here is why.
There is no shortage of men in the public eye. They dominate the media. Turn on the radio or TV, pick up a newspaper or launch a news portal on the internet and there you have it: important men gathered in St. Petersburg in order to decide whether to launch war on Syria. Men like playing war games. Men got together at the Madison Square Garden to watch ice hockey and agree a $130 billion deal. Men like power. Men play football and score goals. Men like scoring points.
Of course, power-hungry, war-playing, point-scoring women do exist but they don't make role models, at least not in my books. The women I find inspiring are different. They are successful yet grounded. They achieve their goals but admit challenges along the way. They are good, really good at what they do but they are humble about it. They make the most of what they have. They care.
In June I interviewed an Olympic gold medal winner Katherine Grainger about her rowing career. She talked about her triumph at London 2012, but she was also admirably open about her disappointment at coming second at the previous Olympic Games in Beijing. She talked about feeling devastated for months, before deciding to start training again. She also talked about appreciating the Beijing experience for what it taught her and how it prepared her for the next four years of training. Such sincerity is rare but it's very powerful in how it makes you feel differently about your own lows.
Last October I spoke to Marianne Elliott, a much accoladed theatre director, in front of a live audience of about 70 women at a Ladies Who Impress event. She talked about feeling nervous before every single premiere, no matter how flawless the rehearsals. Elliott even said that she never quite believed she could pull it all off before a play finally came together on stage. She admitted that her male colleagues at the National were usually a lot more confident and self-assured. I am not surprised. But surely it is OK to feel nervous, to be so invested in a project that its success is personal and affects your every fibre?
In February this year I asked Anna Hansen, the patron chef of The Modern Pantry, about her plans for the future. On the one hand, she felt pretty settled running one successful restaurant and having published The Modern Pantry Cookbook to critical acclaim. On the other hand, she wanted to consider opening another restaurant in order to give an opportunity to her brilliant, loyal, hard-working team to make their own money and build status among London's restaurateurs. I would say that such business and team ethics is an example to follow.
Inspiring female role models are not just successful in what they do, they are also compassionate, down-to-earth, honest about their vulnerabilities and kind. It is time for men to start paying attention.