Mentoring an Emerging Generation of Confident and Bold Women
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
If you've been fortunate to find yourself mentoring a young woman, you know the undeniably powerful effects of sharing the gift of knowledge and experience with someone who is launching herself into a challenging world. Whether a woman is looking to start her career or change her career direction, sharing your rich wisdom can be invaluable and transformative for both you and your mentee.
The American Psychological Association defines a mentor as "an individual with expertise who can help develop the career of a mentee". It further states that: "the career-related function establishes the mentor as a coach who provides advice to enhance the mentee's professional performance and development." While all types of gender-specific mentoring are beneficial, female-to-female mentoring is exceptionally strong, enhanced by our unique perspectives, particularly around gender-specific struggles. Work-life balance issues are one of the greatest struggles for modern women. Finding it difficult to balance the needs of their families and their careers, women feel they have to choose between one or the other. Gender bias and discrimination in the workplace can create self-doubt and a sense of insecurity. As a result, women’s mental health can be challenged, and burnout can soon follow.
Female mentors can be a resource for their mentees to find strategies to navigate these challenges and learn tools that can be used to create a productive, healthy, and peaceful life. From this relationship, mentees also gain professional knowledge and insight, learn to develop vital networking skills, and find a deep well of strength and trust on which she can rely as her own self-confidence blossoms. Relying on her strengths, the female mentor guides the mentee's journey, providing the mentor with the opportunity to refine her own interpersonal, leadership, and management skills. Perhaps most important is the genuine sense of personal fulfillment one will find in supporting and guiding a newer generation.
Martha Langer, founder and President of Pear Ink Design, a branding and design firm in East Greenwich, has 25 years of experience as a mentor. Her enthusiasm for helping young women, not only career-wise but personally, is one of her passions. "Women in their 20s are looking for a different career experience than what I may have experienced", she says. "They are re-evaluating life priorities, trying to balance personal and professional goals. I try to instill in them the fundamentals of professionalism and the importance of financial independence. Most crucially, I advise them to honor their worth.”
She reminds her mentees, whether they choose to work for themselves or others, that, “They need to be bold and price their work in a manner that values their time and effort and to be fearless in advocating for themselves professionally and financially. For as far as we've come, we are still experiencing a lack of gender diversity, particularly in leadership roles."
If an opportunity for mentorship has not yet presented itself, you may be wondering how you can be of service to a young professional. Before committing to mentorship, be sure you can dedicate time to this young person and commit to an agreed-upon schedule to offer guidance, advice, encouragement, and feedback. Sound communication is key, especially the employment of your well-developed listening skills, so your mentee feels heard and understood. Be willing to analyze what they are saying sometimes without them actually saying it, and create specific and measurable goals together. Allow them to explore and readjust their paths, and practice patience as they find their way. With all of these elements in tandem and your unwavering support, they will flourish, as will you. When the opportunity for mentorship arises, embrace it, for it will be a powerful and rewarding journey!
Mentee and Mentor Opportunities in Rhode Island:
If you are looking for a professional mentor, the Rhode Island Black Business Association (RIBBA) is looking for mentees for their 2023-2024 Emerging Leaders Development Program. Note that applications close on September 29th!
About the author:
Karen A. Gregory is a writer of all things inspiring and empowering. Throughout her many years, she
has intentionally, and a few times quite unintentionally, invented or reinvented herself more times than
she can count evolving into a photography stylist, fashion designer, mentor, and a one-time cookie
maker. Currently, she is a Senior Paralegal at RIHousing. In her spare time, she is producing a collection
of short stories about the healing power of humor after the loss of a loved one and decorating her bay-
front bungalow in East Greenwich, where she lives with her partner, Siamese cat, and a plethora of wild
critters. This is her first blog post for the Women's Fund of Rhode Island.