In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, let’s talk about female mentorship. We have a responsibility as senior leaders to mentor and uplift women, to nourish their professional development, to boost their self-confidence, and to support them as they navigate hurdles in their life. The importance of women mentoring women cannot be overemphasized, as it provides access to opportunities, new connections, and a broader perspective. When more women are in leadership positions, conversations are more diverse, and decisions are made from a more holistic lens. Role models and mentors have the power to open previously closed doors for youth. Observing someone who shares your appearance, speech, and behavior offers you hope that you can accomplish your own goals.
We love the concept of “serving the whole girl”, meaning not only providing programming that addresses what we think the barriers are or what will be most helpful, but taking an intersectional approach. We know colonization, classism, racism, and homophobia intersect in the lives of youth and cause unique gender, economic, and social barriers. Focusing on gender barriers without considering the environment surrounding a young girl, and what is important in her life, won’t lead to the best outcomes or the most successful mentoring relationship. We know truly taking a step back and giving these young girls the power to make their own decisions and set their own goals is a powerful thing. We each see through our interactions with girls in our communities that they have unique experiences, so let’s create mentoring programming that reflect that.
As women mentoring young women, part of sharing power with our Littles means checking our own biases of what femininity or living as a girl looks like. Only providing resources for activities within gendered stereotypes, or not fully participating yourself as a mentor in activities that don’t align with how you express your femininity, limits the potential of our Littles. You see that spark of inspiration and empowerment when young women are able to authentically express themselves.
As members of the National Youth Mentoring Advisory Counsil (NYMAC), we want this vision of female mentoring to be a reality within each agency across Canada. We challenge you to pause, listen to the youth in your communities, and find ways to help these inspiring young women fully reach their potential.