Forward Feminism : Why Mentorship Is Important For Women

Last week we celebrated International Women’s Day (if you haven’t seen the 30 amazing pieces of advice from some of the industries finest, go and read them here).

For the occasion, AnalogFolk asked three inspirational women to share their thoughts and experiences about mentoring and their career paths, and how being a mentor or mentee has helped them achieve success in the creative industry. Most importantly, with the world being essentially half male and female, why is there a real problem with a lack of female leadership? It all starts with mentoring…

Laura Bartlett, Executive Coach & Business Owner

“It’s a basic human need to be helped and to give help.”

This is how Laura started off her talk about why and how mentoring is so important, and I couldn’t agree more. A mentor shines a light on one’s path to success, which seems so dark and mysterious to oneself.

For Laura, not only have mentors helped to define her career but being a mentor herself has too: During her voluntary mentorship at My Voice London, a secondary school mentoring scheme to support children to achieve their potential, she realised that her passion was not working with brands (Client services) but people instead (HR). She went on to say that in general, mentors within a company also benefit from the dialog by getting fresh perspectives from the mentee on the business (and in Laura’s case on her career path).

Quoting Margaret Heffernan “Companies don’t have ideas. Only people do.” (she recommended her TED talk), she explained that the success of a company often relies on its people and the dialog between mentors and mentees. When she started out in HR, Laura had to learn many things from scratch. Her desire to learn and to take this new path was so strong that the entire HR team played the role of a mentor for her. She couldn’t emphasise enough how important it is to ask questions and to look out for those mentoring moments (if you don’t already have a mentor), and to look within your network and nurture those relationships as these will bring you answers and lead you (eventually) to success.

Casey Bird, Who’s Your Momma Co-director & SheSays President

If you haven’t heard about Who’s your momma? it’s about time you do! Many women in the creative industry either do not have a mentor at all or/and do not want to talk within their workplace about career goals. That’s why SheSays opened the Who’s Your Momma? mentorship programme, with the mission to help more women maintain their careers and rise to the top.

Who’s your Momma? is a 6 month programme with dozens of ‘mommas’ around the world (New York, London, Sydney, Melbourne, Chicago, Los Angeles, Bournemouth, and Stockholm). Casey explained that the programme wants to help young people to make their own decisions about their career through the programme; be it pay increase, career change, presenting with confidence, maternity support, or workplace bullying. No reason is invalid, if it’s a reason for you to reach out!

Once you are signed up and paired up you’ll meet your ‘momma’ in person once, and then however you like. For everyone who is interested in the programme, here are a couple tips (which are also great advice in general): 1. Think BIG (this should be self-explanatory but you signed up for the programme to change/achieve something, so you might as well get something out of it) 2. Don’t be a passenger (You’re the one in the driver seat. Show initiative and go forward and beyond!) 3. Two ears, 1 mouth (You’re meeting amazing women in your industry, listen to and learn from them. Take notes and even more notes.) 4. Take action! (I don’t think this needs explaining)

Casey also pointed out how inspiring the programme was for the mentors. Some said that “It had such a knock-on effect” and that “It makes you realise that you know a lot more than you think”. Not only for mentees and mentors, but for “Everyone[, we all] need a cheerleader!”. Someone who encourages and believes in us.

You can find out more about Who’s Your Momma? and SheSays here.

Clare Salter, Senior Manager Global Analytics & Digital Insights at ‎Unilever

Clare doesn’t know how she got to her top position. She calls it luck, but she thinks that it’s just the fact that for women, success has always been luck and not just simply success and hard work. Food for thought.

“I am an accidental mentor. And I have been accidentally mentored.”

When trying to pull the talk together, Clare realised that her mentors fell into 6 groups:

  1. Family mentors: Your parents are your first mentors in life but also your siblings can teach you a few lessons too.
  1. Cultural mentors: From Sex and the City to Mary Poppins, women in movies and music can be great role models. Clare mentioned especially this scene in Mary Poppins and it brought a big smile on my face.

  1. Scary mentors: This can be teachers, bosses or that one person in the team who always criticises your work. Clare said: “Don’t be bitter about what they might tell you, take it in, take what you can from it and then move on!”
  1. ‘Oh shit moments’: When Clare was at a tipping point in her career, she realised that she had to take action and ask for the opportunity she wanted. She argued her relationships have been really what got her where she is today. Being honest and open in relationships is not only a necessity but also key to being a good mentor and mentee.
  1. Work mentors: This obviously can be your boss but Clare said not to disregard your partners – they often mentor you without you noticing and vice versa.
  1. Friend mentors: Friends always have your back, no matter what happens in your life. Clare has many girlfriends who are mothers and do not have a career as she does per se. She believes that “just because they don’t manage Instagram doesn’t mean they aren’t valid or important”. They might bake a lot of cake and cookies but they also keep you honest and grounded, which is again key to a successful mentorship.

Clare ended her talk with her personal mantra: “Be nice, be personal.” and I can’t say enough how much I want to endorse this.

The night was amazing and inspiring and I am really looking forward to more of these talks! The only downside of the venue was the lighting for photos but hey, that’s really a minor thing.

Great facts at the end: According to the speakers the 3% of women CDs has shifted to 12%! Also, apparently 10 a day is the new 5 a day (Thanks for the heads up, Clare!). Stock up on all those veggies guys!


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