A Hillary presidency, role models and how they shape us

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The ongoing US presidential election has given me, and I’m sure countless others, several opportunities to reflect and think about our deeply held values, strengths and fears. Amongst several aspects of this campaign, one that is close to my heart is the possibility of Hillary Clinton being elected as the first woman president of the United States of America.

Keeping the intricacies of the politics aside, what I’m excited about is that history is being created and it is incredibly inspiring. On social media and in-person conversations, I’ve noticed young girls, and parents of young girls, are hopeful that having a woman president will change the status quo, create opportunities for women and more importantly, serve as a powerful role model for shaping women leaders for generations to come.

So how effective are role models in shaping us? It is hard to answer this question as the impact is largely intangible. Having had several strong women leaders to look up to while growing up, I believe role models play a critical role in building conviction and drive, a deep-rooted belief that you — just like the role model that looks like you — can achieve a certain goal.

I was incredibly fortunate to have had parents who carefully instilled in me a belief that I could fight all odds to be successful and independent, if I worked hard and put my mind to it. They didn’t create that influence in a tiger parenting kind of way, but simply by talking about inspiring women leaders. On several occasions, I remember my father telling me stories of strong Indian women leaders and reading their biographies with me.

The women leaders I grew up reading about spanned several professions. Here are ones that had a particularly deep impact on me —

  • Indira Gandhi: India’s first woman prime minister. Under her leadership, India won the war of 1971 against Pakistan, which later led to the creation of Bangladesh. Her reputation among middle-class Indians was that of a tough and shrewd political leader. Though my father talked very fondly about her numerous achievements, I later grew up to learn that he actually disagreed with several of her policies and decisions.
  • Kiran Bedi: First woman Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of India. A total badass, who incessantly fought the male-dominated field of Indian Police Services and converted every obstacle thrown at her — of which there were many — into an opportunity.
  • Rani Laxmibai: An Indian queen and warrior. She was queen of the Maratha-ruled State of Jhansi, situated in the north-central part of India. One of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Rani Laxmibai became the symbol of resistance to the British Raj.
Naturally, I grew up believing women can run countries, police forces, kingdoms and win wars.

How does that help me now? Though there are several occasions where I feel disappointed, there is a fundamental belief system I can tap into, to emerge with a determination to fight through it. I believe, despite all odds of working in a completely male-dominated field of technology in Silicon Valley, I can create and lead a company successfully. Above all, I find the strength and conviction to push every obstacle aside, break every glass ceiling that I might encounter, and be unapologetically ambitious.

There isn’t just one thing that shapes a person but I’m sure that the role models I was encouraged to look up to, have had a quiet influence on how I operate today. For that reason alone, I’m hopeful and excited about the impact a Hillary presidency will have in shaping several generations of strong women leaders to come.