When James Brown sang, “This is a man’s world, this is a man’s world. But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl,” he was definitely onto something. Although women and men are about neck and neck in terms of population number, it is statistically proven that women make less than a man for the same job. When you add race to the equation, some women are even lower on the average pay scale. When women are not fully represented in the workplace, having another woman to build a network with and harvest leadership skills with can heighten an experience. Women deserve more, and it seems like other women tend to be the ones fighting for us in the workplace, in school, and in several other places.
When you think of powerful women, what names come to mind? Is it Oprah Winfrey? Michelle Obama? Viola Davis? Gabrielle Union? All these women have something in common – they all had other women as their mentors. Each of these women had another powerful woman pushing them to their points of greatness and fighting for them behind and in front of the scenes. It is safe to say that as a woman, finding another woman you admire to become your mentor and guide you within your career can lead to exponential success.
In my career, several women have been the driving forces for where I am today. The love, the encouragement, discussing harsh realities about being a woman in particular fields, and so much more have made having mentors that are women even more powerful for my life. When I first got into graduate school, I told my favorite professor – Prea Persaud – that I was nervous about not being good enough, or smart enough. Professor Persaud told me, “You are not an imposter, and they are not smarter than you. There will be a lot of men who try and act like they are the smartest ones in the room, and they aren’t. You didn’t get there by chance, you deserve to be there.” That was the last day of my class with her, but I will never forget her words. I will never forget the feeling that I had another powerful woman in my corner rooting for my success. So, I want to ask you, who is there to encourage you on your journey? Who is there to give you interview tips, salary negotiation tips, a venting session if need be? Is it another woman?
I am here to encourage you to reach out to that faculty member, that co-worker, even that family friend for mentorship. To say that other women have contributed to your success is a beautiful thing because where we are underestimated and undervalued at times, we stay resilient. Here are some tips on finding a mentor:
- Choose someone that is making an impact in their field in some way. You want to look at their connections, their publications, their academic achievements, their job position, and other things you might have access to finding out.
- Set up an informal meeting with the person to get to know them more and get a better sense of whether they are someone you want to guide you through your experiences. From there you can send an email, schedule a phone call, or ask in person if they are comfortable with mentoring you.
- Figure out what type of mentorship relationship you want. Do you want someone to write you letters of recommendation? Do you want someone to connect you to their connections? Do you want someone you can job shadow? Think about what matters most to you as you are in your mentor search.
- If you don’t have a lot of connections, try and find a professor that you liked, or even a campus leader that could possibly connect you with others and still help you on your journey. A great tool you could use is Husky Mentor Network to find someone in your area of interest to mentor you.