The Mentorship Paradox (and What this Means for Women’s Liberation)

Oprah is my mentor. And also Brené Brown. Whenever I am in a funk or facing down a fear, I turn to them to find the clarity and peace that I need most. They can be yours, too. All you need is one of their books, podcasts, or YouTube videos to directly access their wisdom.

I also have a wonderful relationship with my “inner mentor.” This lady is me, just 20 years older. Her kids are grown, she’s in the twilight of her career, and she gives the best advice ever. Stuff like, “Only do what brings you joy and allows you to drop the f-bomb,” which resulted in this Zoom talk show.

These types of mentors are important. They put us back in the driver’s seat of our lives by giving us the time and space to reflect. They help us hear our own voices that have been dismissed, quieted, and silenced over the years. Voices that are barely audible above the din of everyone else’s needs.

Women are taught early not to trust themselves. To question our feelings and seek external validation for everything. Little stuff like what to wear to an event to really big stuff like whether to apply for a new job or leave our spouse. Only we know the answer to these questions, but we ask others to tell us what to do.

So is it any wonder that many of us seek a mentor like a fairytale princess on the hunt for Prince Charming? If we just had a mentor, we would slay all of the dragons between us and our professional dreams. If we just had a mentor, we would know exactly what to do to live happily ever after.

But finding a mentor is tough when senior women are in short supply. For every four men in executive leadership roles, there is only one woman. And she’s busy. Further complicating matters is the backlash to #Metoo that’s left men more hesitant to mentor women.

Plus, others’ lived experiences and identities inevitably inform the advice they give. I’ve been encouraged by well-meaning white mentors to “fly below the radar,” which just isn’t an option for a brown woman whose very presence puts some people on edge. Not to mention the fact that I had to be a fighter jet my whole life, breaking the sound barrier just to make it in the room, so flying below the radar is antithetical to who I am.

In this week’s Zoom talk show, I’ll discuss the gifts and challenges of mentorship, share alternative mentoring models that work, and teach you how to slay your own dragons. You’ll get to meet your “inner mentor,” which is a concept based on the work of one of my other mentors, Tara Mohr.

Ready? Let’s go.


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