Being in chemistry, it was hard finding women that looked like me to look up to, until I met my advisor, Dr. Rena Robinson, my sophomore year at Pitt. [She does mass spectrometry and looks at mechanisms of aging and age -related diseases like Alzheimer's - long story short.]
Regardless, growing up I've had female science teachers but besides Dr. Kimberly Mason, who was going back to school for her PhD. right after she taught me middle school science and now teaches at my old high school, none of them were black. Not saying that's a bad thing, especially because my high school chemistry teacher Angela Rohan and I are BFFs, but it is different. Even my research advisor at Pitt was white, but without Tara I wouldn't have made it to OSU or had an internship with the DEA.
But Dr. Robinson and I had a special relationship. It's nothing like having another SUCCESSFUL, black woman looking out for you while you're trying to make it. I could talk to her about anything and she, and Tara, got me involved in NOBCChE - which is an organization for black chemists and chemical engineers, similar to NSBE, which exposed me to other blacks doing amazing things in science. The thing about having a role model that looks like you, in my opinion, it that they've been where you are and know the struggles that come with making it in your respective field ( as far as race and gender go). I was comfortable with her and she's basically my chemistry life goals.
If you Google her, you'll understand why. She's got a crazy amount of recognition and she's literally the nicest person ever.
Being her advisee was one of the best things to come out of my experience at Pitt. I told her what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go and she helped me get there. I honestly couldn't have had loved an advisor more. Even the decision to pursue a PhD. was partially because of her. She reassured me that I was more than capable of doing it and also gave me the ins and outs of this kind of program and the ups and downs I'd encounter along the way. Her believing in me like she does is something that I'll always cherish.
So I say all of that to say this, if you have a role model pick their brains, network with their network, have an open and honest relationship with them because they want to help you reach your goals. If someone considers you as a role model, wear that title proudly and make yourself available for mentorship, that person is looking to you for guidance for a reason.
And always remember, you never know the impact you'll have on someone.