In Search of Missing Role Models for Women in India

This research brief tries to understand how to overcome the problem of lack of visible female role models, who are needed to inspire Indian women to take up different careers and vocations. In the backdrop of past research studies that have shown that role models have a strong impact on women’s ambition levels, career choices and beliefs about  “what is possible”.

The paper assesses the level of access of women to role models using a survey of 100 women from urban India. Insights from the survey showed that:

  • women equally see their family members (mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, etc) as well as professionals (teachers, mentors, entrepreneurs, and business/ finance personalities) as their role models.
  • Most role models for women are outside their field of work or study.    
  • The level of awareness about successful female politicians, economists, CEOs and entrepreneurs is fairly low among women
  • Women connect most with the role models with whom they have in-person interactions, and then via social media.
  • On social media, most celebrities that women follow are actresses, followed by female entrepreneurs. Very few women follow policymakers like IAS officers, economists, and ministers. And the least followed are female politicians.
  • not many women have read a biography or an autobiography of a female or watched movies about famous women.   

Following these insights, the paper recommends  some strategies to create more visible role models for women and schoolgirls in various fields, to inspire them to pursue their passions and reach their full potential:

  • Develop educational materials and resources that feature female role models in history and contemporary society. Implement a gender-inclusive curriculum that highlights the contributions of women in various fields.
  • Add books by women and for women in the higher education curriculum and in school libraries
  • Organize workshops, seminars, and career fairs that expose girls to diverse career options.
  • Involve parents and caregivers in discussions about career choices and gender equality.
  • Establish mentorship programs connecting girls and young women with female professionals in their desired fields.
  • Encourage women in leadership roles to serve as mentors and role models.
  • Use social media and online platforms to share success stories of women breaking barriers in different fields
  • Encourage women in various fields to engage in outreach activities, such as giving talks and participating in panel discussions at schools and community events.
  • Gift little girls and women books about women role models
  • Showcase movies and documentaries about women


Khushi Shekhar

Shravani Prakash