When I lived in Seattle, I received some amazing mentorship from the women surrounding me.  They were at my place of work, in my volunteer activities, and through my peer networks.  In fact, at that point in life, all of my mentorship was coming from women.  Combine those influences with my supermom and I have been blessed by the knowledge and wisdom from strong female role models.
Don’t equate my all-female-mentorship-circle with any sort of love-in or hugging circle.  It was nothing of the sort.  Whether the tone was harsh or soft, the comments curious or directive – each woman had their spin on things.   Rarely was it entirely lovey-dovey (maybe once).  More often it left my head aching – challenging and pushing me to achieve at levels I had not previously attempted.
Each of these women came to be mentors to me in different ways.  The golden nugget connecting them all … their belief in me.  
And that is not a pat on my back.  Heck, no.  There were moments when they should have thrown that belief straight out a window.  There were days when I made hideous choices – proving that there is no such thing as common sense – and times when they’d tilt their head and wonder, really, you have a Masters degree?  There was no logical reason for why they sustained that kind of belief in me.  The very fact that they did (and do) has made all the difference.
I reflect on these women today because I miss them.  And I miss what they represent.
Where I live today, all my mentors are men.  That may represent a certain reality of this city or just my perception of it.  Still, it has been here that my first real experiences with women bullying at work have occured.  Instead of being inspired and challenged to succeed, I’ve been mentored by women in new ways – in how to manipulate, alientate, and create resentment in the workplace.*  I’m likely fairly good at it myself now.
In thinking through this phenomenon, I realized – how do we learn to mentor?  Our professional development seeks to cultivate leaders, but does it cultivate the ability to mentor?  The two terms overlap and yet, may be vastly different things.  Does mentorship even require a program or a course or an event?  Isn’t the foundation for mentorship just to develop a relationship?
When we are at work, with our peers – just as bright as we – do we take the time to see where we could each benefit from another’s strengths?  Do we think about mentoring, or do we plow through the day and the work hoping that the light shines on us?  As we progress, do we have the time and wherewithal to take interest in another collegaue’s potential? 
I think there is a difference between working with women and being mentored by a woman.  It’s beautiful when they can happen simultaneously, but one does not require the other.  In the absense of mentorship, there is a lost opportunity.  I reflect on this now so that I’m able to call my own consciousness to it.
In all of this, I believe that regardless of gender, having a mentor is an amazing gift.  Mine are among the most important people in my life.  When I admire a women who also believes in me (regardless of logical reason) – well, that is a special thing.  
And it’s something I miss.
*Not all and not all the time.  But for the length of time I’ve lived here, the numbers are somewhat shocking.
(Side note:  I could not for the life of me find a photo of “women mentoring”.  When searching for those words, the majority of images depicted women in a line and posing, women mentoring children, women being mentored by a man, or women working alone.  My favorite (sarcastically) was the word ‘mentorship’ in the shape of a ladder with a man on top reaching his hand down to the woman at the bottom to help her up.)

Pin It on Pinterest

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On Linkedin