The Keys to Representation and Positive Role Modeling for Girls

Research shows that girls start developing self-limiting beliefs about who and what they can be as early as the age of 5. This gap, known as The Dream Gap, limits girls to believe that they are less capable than boys. Barbie’s The Dream Gap Project seeks to change that through a global initiative that gives girls the support and resources they need to keep dreaming.


One tried-and-true lesson we can learn about the power of role models from Barbie is, in the words of Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global general manager of Mattel, their ability “to inspire the limitless potential in every girl.”  We recently gathered industry leaders for our #IWD2022 Virtual Equality Lounge® to discus the importance of exposing girls and young women to positive role models. Here’s what to keep in mind about representation:


1. Visibility and accessibility are essential.  

Ask yourself, “Where will the girls see me?” It is important for leaders and role models to go wherever the girls are, whether that be in the classroom, the metaverse or social media feeds.


2. Be persistent and keep showing up.

It’s not just about doing a one off mentorship session, but instead showing up on a recurring basis.

Miriam González Durántez, founder and chair of Inspiring Girls International, shared that, “It takes at least three interventions of role models to have some impact on a little girl.”


3. Start earlier.

Girls start dealing with the fear of failure as early as the age of 5 and start seeing the world differently as early as 6. So instead of waiting to give support until high school, they need positive role models at younger ages.


4. Diversity is key. 

Role models need to be diverse and range from a variety of jobs, a variety of backgrounds and at a variety of career levels. 

“The more paths girls see to success, the more likely they will be successful in any field,” said Kat Jagai, Writer, Artist and Editor, Girls Write Now.


5. Lead with authenticity. 

Girls want authentic role models who they can relate to. They want to see the real you, the difficulties you face and how you overcome them.


What value have positive role models made in your life? Why is representation so important for girls and young women?


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