Female Role Models

Amy Schuman
Amy Schuman

Recently a client was refurbishing his offices and he commissioned two sculptures for the lobby: One of Abraham Lincoln, and one of Winston Churchill. I happened to be in his offices when they were being installed, and he called me over to admire their beauty. They had been rendered by a local artist who had done a masterful job of capturing the inspirational spirit of both of these men.

“Got a question for you,” he said as he called me over. “I want to put a female in the lobby alongside these two men, and I’m having a tough time figuring out who to put here.”

We talked for awhile about what was making it so tough to identify the right woman to put in the lobby. Obviously, a female U.S. President was not a possibility. Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir all had served as heads of their states, all were inspirational and pioneering, but none seemed right to sit alongside Lincoln and Churchill.

I polled family and friends over the next few days for their ideas, and though many good ideas emerged, nothing has topped the charts as a clear winner. Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Jane Addams, Barbara Bush, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Nancy Reagan, Marie Curie, Sacejawea, Madelyn Albright – none seemed right.

“What is it?” asked the client, a successful family business leader, who had grown his second generation business both in size and innovation. “Women’s contribution is clearly important, in family and society and business. Is it that women are more comfortable leading from the background? Is it that woman prefer to make their contribution in the home and schools, more quietly and away from the limelight”

We haven’t figured it out, but it was certainly an interesting discussion. And so, dear readers, I pose the question to you. What woman would you nominate to sit alongside Lincoln and Churchill in the lobby of this family business headquarters?




2 thoughts on “Female Role Models”

  1. Good choice regarding Rosa Parks. Her act of courage as a private citizen challenged racial inequality and was a symbol of change leading to our modern civil rights laws. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Upon her death, she was the first woman and 2nd non U.S. government official to lie in honor at the Capital Rotunda.

  2. LOVE your post, Amy! I was having a similar discussion with my 10 year old daughter just the other day, and we too struggled with it. I think the answer to your client’s specific question begins with a clear understanding of their values. If a core value is hard work, then perhaps the statue would be of Mother Teresa, who toiled tirelessly on behalf of the poor and sick for nearly 50 years. If a core value is courage, then maybe the statue would be of Rosa Parks, who risked much to make a powerful statement. Granted, these two figures are not as well known as Churchill or Lincoln, but maybe your client’s third statue — whoever the subject — will help to change that!

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