The Power of Role Models: Why does Role Model-Based Education Matter?

Why Role Models Matter:

Firstly, role models serve as examples for inspiration, demonstrating what is possible. Nowadays, the phrase “role model” is commonly employed, but it was in 1957 when this term was first introduced (Merton, 1957) to describe individuals occupying particular roles, serving as examples of behaviours associated with those roles. Their achievements not only serve as motivation but also as tangible examples of success. By observing the journeys of those who have walked the path before us, we gain insights into strategies, things to avoid, and valuable lessons learned. 

Role models, especially those coming from diverse backgrounds, promote diversity and representation while showcasing success through a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and narratives. Especially for individuals coming from underrepresented social groups, to see someone who looks like them and/or who shares their experiences succeed, can be very inspiring. Positive representation helps break down barriers and encourages diverse participation and innovation in various fields. 

Learning by Example:

Role model-based education goes beyond theoretical learning; it emphasises learning by example. By studying the behaviours, habits, and decisions of our role models, we absorb valuable lessons organically.  An online study conducted with women attending a public university in the Northeastern U.S. concluded that providing information about accomplished female physicians (role models) to undergraduate women interested in medicine can initiate a positive process involving, among other benefits, the increase or maintenance of women’s interest in medicine, despite ongoing gender-specific challenges (Rosenthal et al., 2013). 

From leadership qualities to problem-solving approaches, it seems that we emulate the traits that contribute to the role models’ success, and adapt them to our own journeys. Additionally, role model-based education usually promotes a holistic understanding of success by highlighting not only professional achievements, but also personal values, ethics, and well-being. Through observing how role models balance their professional pursuits with family life, community engagement, and self-care, we learn the importance of maintaining harmony and fulfilment across various domains. 

Building Networks and Mentorship:

A more important factor seems to be the proximity of the chosen role models; role models that extend beyond distant figures and become mentors and allies in our journey can provide added value to it. When we establish connections with individuals whom we admire, it allows for mentorship opportunities, specific guidance, and support. These relationships will facilitate and encourage our growth along the way. Kearney and Levine (2020) conducted a study that highlighted how children who take part in official mentorship programs perform better academically and have a higher chance of avoiding troubles with the law. 

Furthermore, it’s common for role models to inspire the formation of communities and networks centred around shared goals and aspirations. Through several networking events or workshops, or online platforms and social media, persons can connect with like-minded peers and mentors and exchange valuable insights and ideas; these networks serve as catalysts for collaboration and innovation, and collective advancement. 

Role model education and entrepreneurship

Although there isn’t an academic consensus on whether education can effectively foster entrepreneurship, a substantial body of literature addressing this question recognizes the beneficial impact of entrepreneurship education, and the exposure to successful entrepreneurial role models could positively influence the attitudes of students towards entrepreneurship (Boldureanu et al., 2020) and their entrepreneurial intentions (Muofhe, 2011).  


In our world, which is filled with challenges but also with possibilities, embracing role model-based education and having a role model can be transformative for the individuals, especially from underrepresented communities. The inspiration they offer, the guidance and even their practical advice can empower people to overcome obstacles and aspire to their goals. Using their experiences and success (or failure) as an example could help us carve our way to success for a more thriving society.  


Boldureanu, G., Ionescu, A. M., Bercu, A., Bedrule-Grigoruță, M. V., & Boldureanu, D. (2020). Entrepreneurship Education through Successful Entrepreneurial Models in Higher Education Institutions. Sustainability, 12(3), 1267. 

Kearney, M. S., & Levine, P. B. (2020). Role models, mentors, and media influences. The Future of Children, 30(2020), 83–106. 

Merton, R. (1957). Social theory and social structure. New York, NY: Free Press. 

Muofhe, N. J. (2011). Entrepreneurial education’s and entrepreneurial role models’ influence on career choice : original research. Sa Journal of Human Resource Management, 9(1), 1–15. 

Rosenthal, L., Levy, S. R., London, B., Lobel, M., & Bazile, C. (2013). In pursuit of the MD: The impact of role models, identity compatibility, and belonging among undergraduate women. Sex Roles, 68(7–8), 464–473. 

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