London 2012 will be remembered as the games in which British women came to the fore.
Winning a record number of gold medals – from Victoria Pendleton in cycling, to Jess Ennis in athletics, Charlotte Dujarin in dressage and even in boxing with Nicola Adams, for two glorious weeks, these incredible women were our new role models.
To find out more about this new breed of role models, Penny Marshall met Jo Rowsell, who set a world record when she clinched gold in the team pursuit.
– Jo Rowsell
The Olympics highlighted a new generation of women. Women of different ages different shapes and sizes that are all very talented and very hard working and have been very successful.
Penny’s own role model was her great grandmother Lizzie Hanlin. She was born in 1880, and was a suffragette. Lizzie was a single parent, who managed to support her son through medical school. Penny looks up to her as a pioneering woman who helped her family out of poverty, through hard work and tenacity.
Today’s role models are very different and their message is often not about working hard but looking good, being desirable and being famous.
Amy Childs was plucked from obscurity two years ago when she appeared on reality TV series The Only Way is Essex. Since leaving the show she has gone on to launch a new perfume range, fake tan products, open her own salon and boutique, but is she a good role model?
– Amy Childs
It does upset me when people say to me what are you famous for and young girls look up to you but at the same time I’m not hurting anybody, I’m not selling drugs on the streets, I’m just doing what I enjoy doing and girls look up to me which is amazing.
A recent report by Boardwatch, an organisation which tracks female appointments, revealed there is still a significant lack of senior women in top jobs in the UK. It seems that young women still need all the encouragement they can get to help them reach the top of their chosen careers.
Dr Helen Wright, headteacher at St Mary’s Calne said:
I think there’s a really damaging effect that the celebrity culture can have on a sense of work ethic because if girls think that in order to achieve success all you need to do is appear on a TV show then they’re not going to think about what you really need to do in order achieve long lasting success.
To see the power role models have over teenagers we introduce 3 ordinary girls - Devon, Paris and Helena to some high achieving women.
Thea Green – founder of Nails Inc, Gail Parminter and Kate Fearson from ad agency Madwomen and Kim Hamilton – Chief Executive of animal charity The Blue Cross. We follow their progress in the programme.
We also reveal what happened to one girl when she did not conform to the stereotype of what girls should be like. We meet Faith Hawley who was bullied at school because she did not fit in. The abuse was so bad that Faith developed alopecia. But she did not let the bullies win and is following her dream to become a vet.
And finally we meet two girls who are making it in a man’s world. Only 9% of engineers are women. Hannah Proffitt and Charlotte Watling are two of them - they’ve challenged stereotypes and expectations but they’re achieving great success.
– Charlotte Watling
I get to see the world now, I get to go travelling, I get to drive around in a Bentley at 23 the opportunities are fabulous.
Perhaps they are future role models themselves?
- Who Does Your Daughter Look Up To? Tonight, ITV1 at 7.30pm.