Think of three people that are largely considered role models in today’s society. What do they have in common? There’s no standard formula – apart from one thing. They are famous.
And because they are famous, people have got to ‘know’ them – and they aspire to be like them, not just for what they have achieved but also for the package they are. As much as we’d like to think that little girls aspire to be like Taylor Swift purely because she is a hard working, accomplished songwriter – the fact is, there is so much more behind the adoration, from the way she dresses, to the way she deals with heartbreak.
Mass media’s influence just cannot be ignored. Not only in promoting the personalities and lifestyles of real people – but fictional people too. I’ve said it before in a previous blog – but if Miranda Hobbes had been a civil engineer in Sex in the City, would we have seen a whole generation of young women suddenly able to identify with this as a potential career?
Now, I’m not sure how you go about lobbying the scriptwriters of HBO to start including more characters that work in construction (although perhaps it’s worth a go?). However, increasing the public profile of a real person is more within our reach than ever before – with the advent of vloggers.
Felix Kjellberg (aka PewDiePie) is an internet vlogger that has 42 million subscribers; who earned $7.4m in 2014 by uploading videos of himself playing video games. Zoella is the UK sensation that gives make-up tips to over 10 million subscribers. The construction industry needs a Felix and a Zoella.
So my challenge to the industry is this. We need to focus not just on role models that can be defined by their success – but also by their personality and way of life. We need some engaging, self-publicists that don’t take themselves too seriously - who are happy to give away more of themselves than just their work achievements.
We need people who can inspire by pure enthusiasm and honesty, not just by the job title they have achieved or the money that they earn (or indeed not just by the iconic structure they have helped create.) Because a true role model has the whole package.