I often feel like a fraud.
This is a mirror of battling impostor syndrome – something I’ve now come to realize is part of being a high-output and high-ambition individual. But it’s especially pronounced when I talk to students or mentees. They’d often gush out some superlative about how I have it all together and how they want to reach a point in their career similar to where they see me now.
And this, invariably, makes me super uncomfortable.
I don’t think that I’ve achieved enough to justify being anyone’s role-model.
So in the spirit of some unseen cosmic balance, I decided I should tell you about my role models. I hope you’ll follow these great ladies and I hope you find tons of value in doing that.
Why role models and representation matter?
I could’ve easily put a mix of people I admire but I decided to go with a women-only list. I don’t think of myself as a feminist but I understand the need for representation. The truth is you cannot be what you cannot see.
To my male friends, this sounds very weird and limiting. “You guys surely have imagination,” they’d say, “why can’t you see a great leader and not care if it’s a woman?” And I really can’t explain it. But I know it’s true. It works.
There is obviously a ton of nuance to the topic of representation and this is not a post that will cover it all. If you want a read like that, I found it for you and it’s called “You can’t be what you can’t see” is crap. Here’s the gist of it and the best part:
I do believe representation matters, that it makes it easier for those that come next if we make space for them now. […] While I believe visible representation makes a difference, highlighting excellence is so much more important.Kasey Champion
So sure, just promoting a person based on gender, religion, the color of their skin or anything like that is stupid and it can even go against the good of that minority. If we promote people driven by tokenism, we will invariably promote less good experts. But at the same time, to feel comfortable in my role as a female solopreneur and consultant, I need to see other strong female examples.
So without further ado, here are mine.
7 top women marketers I admire
As I am a content marketer, there’s no surprise that Ann Handley is the first person that came to mind when I decided to write this piece.
Ann is a great professional and her approach to content, writing, newsletters, and brand communications has shaped my understanding of how to create content that matters. Whenever I get the new edition of Total Annarchy in my inbox, it’s the first newsletter I’ll read. She is also an amazing leader and sitting at the helm of MarketingProfs she has formed how marketing is done in a ton of companies.
But the thing I really admire about Ann is that she doesn’t stifle her fun side. She’s not just the most smiling speaker, she has the best suits and she is not afraid to tell personal stories. Heck, she even has her own Instagram GIFs!
The takeaway from Ann: Always provide value, be kind, and show your fun side.
Joanna created Copyhackers and she has led countless trainings and presentations. Listening to her talk or write about copywriting is a delight. Everything is clear and to the point, backed up with the right examples. It shows that she’s not just teaching – she’s gone through countless hands-on projects and she’s speaking from experience.
I recently started Copy School and I gained new appreciation for Joanna. She shows such a great passion for good copy – it’s not all work to her, it’s personal. I was watching a landing page feedback session she led. I’ve never seen anyone so fired up about their work subject – safe for basketball players and TV detectives.
The takeaway from Joanna: If you really care about the work you do, you’re in the right job.
I first heard April speak at SaaStock in Ireland a couple of years back. I was impressed by the way she makes a complex subject like positioning sound straightforward. Then I read Obviously Awesome, her book about the same topic, and it completely blew me away. It is dead simple and incredibly practical. It shows the step-by-step and creates a framework that makes one of the fuzziest marketing subjects concrete.
The top thing about April is that she is so straightforward. She says it like it is, even if that includes telling a story of how she effed things up early in her career. She doesn’t rely on difficult words or complex ideas. Her experience is mainly in tech but still, she’ll explain positioning with a dog accessory that makes your pet’s muzzle look like a beak. This can come only from a person who’s more focused on delivering knowledge than appearing smart.
The takeaway from April: Tell it like it is and tell it simply.
I heard Melanie on a podcast some time back and I was immediately impressed. She hit a nerve right away because she works on creating social media content at scale. Her Content Matrix is the proof she knows her way around content idea generation. I am a big fan of structured content creation and this is why I use the Matrix in my content marketing classes.
On the human side, Melanie is also not scared to let us all in. She also posts about her family or personal stories from her travels. I find it really cool for professionals to show another side of their life and I appreciate the closeness. I also love the color palette she uses with the red accent color and I want to have a similar Instagram feed!
The takeaway from Melanie: Create structure for your audience, but always be personable.
Amy is the trusted advisor for course creators online. I’ve been following her podcast for a long while – although I never planned on launching a course, her content is very much applicable to entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Amy’s career trajectory is what strongly resonates with me. She used to work with Tony Robbins who’s a titan among coaches on a global scale. But what she did after was great. She quit and went on to do her own thing. It definitely wasn’t easy, but she opted for the road less traveled and I admire her for it.
It’s easy to stick with a comfortable job, a great brand, or a strong boss. But Amy empowers people to ditch easy and do what’s hard.
The takeaway from Amy: Don’t be content with what you already have and strive to build something new.
Early in my career, I was focused more on Public Relations. Gini is one of the experts I found way back then and one of the few I’m still following now. She’s the founder of her own PR agency, a podcast host, and the author of the best weekly roundup title ever: Gin and Topics.
But Gini is featured here because she created what became a digital marketing staple: the PESO model. It is a full mental model for thinking about the role of communications in the digital environment and the many permutations of content online. It makes a complex topic simple. It changes the way we think about digital communications. And Gini continues to share knowledge around it to the benefit of everyone – check out her agency’s blog.
The takeaway from Gini: Make the complex simple and spread your knowledge far and wide.
It was recently that I found out Tina is the mind behind a few things I’ve been a long time fan of: the Creative Mornings series of events, the swissmiss blog, and the cool and creative temporary tattoo e-shop Tattly.
Tina is creative, energetic, and incredibly self-aware. It’s pure joy to see her talk and cover such complex topics like creative leadership, finding your professional purpose, and persevering as a person. She is not afraid to be very open and personal – and the empathy she exudes is compelling.
Tina is not a marketer by trade, but she’s an entrepreneur. And to a big extent what she does in terms of building brands, creating communities, and communicating purpose is the best kind of marketing.
The takeaway from Tina: Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and personal.
Take inspiration but be yourself
Just writing this post and talking about women I admire brings a rush of energy to my fingertips. It’s a reminder of where I want to go and what I want to achieve. And it’s a great reminder that you need to push, and claw, and persevere. Because let’s be real, things don’t come easily to a woman. And when we get to a place of success we need to show everyone that we can do great things.
But the truth is I know I will never get to where they are – because I’m not in a place where they have been. In a sense, the title of this post is a lie – I won’t be any of them when I grow up. And this gives me the freedom to forge a path for me. And who knows where that will lead? Exciting, right?
So find the people you admire and keep a close eye on them because they’ll bring you energy. But make sure you don’t compare yourself to them and build your own path.