This post was written by Zazie Clarke, Network Manager for Sussex at The Girls’ Network to mark the International Day of the Girl. Brighton Digital Women are proud to support The Girls’ Network as our nominated charity.
On Day of the Girl 2019, The Girls’ Network has come together with Brighton Digital Women to celebrate the importance of a network of women, and the transformative power of mentoring. Read on to find out how becoming a mentor to a local teenage girl could change your career path, and maybe even your life…
The value of mentors
We’re so excited to be working with Brighton Digital Women because according to UN Women, girls globally are facing barriers that impact their access to education, training and entry to the workforce, particularly in terms of access to information, communication technology, and resources such as the internet. In 2016 the global gap in internet use between men and women grew to 12 percent, leaving girls less able to access digital career paths and opportunities.
A little bit about what we do… The Girls’ Network aims to inspire and empower girls aged 14-19 from the least advantaged communities by connecting them to a mentor and a network of professional role models who are women. We support over 1,000 girls a year via relationships with schools in London, Sussex, Portsmouth, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the North East and Liverpool City Region. Volunteers are trained in mentoring and safeguarding by The Girls’ Network and meet their mentees at least once a month for a year. Mentoring is a journey, helping mentees get from where they are to where they want to be.
Mentoring is an amazing way to share your experience and skills with a girl that might not benefit from this support otherwise. It is also a great way to show a teenage girl that you believe in her, and that she is worth investing time in. This is a powerful combination, and one that we have seen transform the lives of girls and young women again and again.
What being a mentor could do for you
But mentoring can also be completely transformative for the mentor. At The Girls’ Network, we know from experience that the power of a mentoring relationship is that it is not just a one-way exchange – and 90% of our mentors return to take on another mentee in a new academic year.
Here are four key ways that mentoring might benefit the future you:
Communication skills: Teenagers might not yet have learnt all the “soft skills” and social cues that we grow to expect in a professional workplace, so this is a great opportunity to help them with this! Speaking with someone with a completely different perspective to your own and supporting them to develop their professional communication style allows you to become more adaptable and empathetic in your own approach to communication. Plus, encouraging your mentee to step out of her comfort zone might just encourage you to do the same and go for that big opportunity at work!
“I learn a lot from my mentee every time I meet her. Sometimes it’s as simple as learning more about the sector she studies in and the work experience she has. Other times she opens my eyes to a world I never knew before. When she was fasting I got to know more about Islam and Ramadan. Since matching she’s passed her driving test, which has encouraged me to start thinking about learning to drive myself!” – Hazel Francis, mentor
Clarity on your own career path: Advising somebody to follow their dreams and not let fear hold them back is a reminder to our mentors that they should do the same! Between busy jobs, an endless pile of life admin, and keeping up with our favourite documentaries on Netflix, it is all too easy to get disconnected from why we set out on a particular career path, or what our goals and values are. Taking time out each month to help a teenager work out what motivates them is also a powerful opportunity for some self-reflection. We have even had a few mentors tell us that they have left their imposter syndrome at the door and changed career paths entirely, after realising that they should take on some of the great advice they had been sharing with their mentees!
“Mentoring Lola made me look at my own goals and career ambitions in a new light and rethink the path I was on. Watching someone at the start of their career make decisions based on what they enjoy rather than on making money forced me to really think about what I want in life. As a result I have gone part-time in my job and I’m working on something I love!” – Tessa, mentor
Become a better manager: As seasoned professionals, we may have mastered the art of efficiency, organisation and office etiquette, but it’s easy to forget that what now feels almost second nature once felt like an unreachable goal! Mentoring someone before they have started out in their career is a great reminder of how intimidating the professional world can feel before you’ve had some experience in it. Learn to empathise with someone with a different outlook and set of experiences, support them to develop their confidence and a whole range of skills, and encourage them to leave their comfort zone behind to try new things. These sound to us like the traits of a great manager!
Get connected: Finally, mentoring is emotionally rewarding and allows you to feel more connected to young people in your local community. Learn how this fiery, unstoppable next generation sees the world, and use your own experience to support these young women to flourish and fulfil their potential. All while developing invaluable skills yourself!
What mentoring has meant to others
Don’t just take our word for it – hear from some of our wonderful mentors working in digital on their experiences as a mentor for The Girls’ Network.
Hannah says that, for her, mentoring was an amazing opportunity to reflect:
“I was new to mentoring and at first it was a little scary. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be useful and how to make sure the time with my mentee was beneficial to them. Sometimes you are so busy in the role you are doing you never actually look back and think how far you’ve come and what you have achieved – taking part in the program made me do that. It has certainly given me more confidence. Talking to a 16-year-old was scary at first as I didn’t want to sound patronising or boring. It has made me much more conscious of the way I communicate with everyone.”
“I’ve managed teams for several years now, and mentoring is a key part of this. Being able to mentor someone out of the workplace who has different needs has been a great way for me to build on my skills and gain wider knowledge. I think this has really helped me to work with my team more effectively. Mentoring has helped increase my confidence – this has meant I’ve collaborated more with other teams (and even won an award last year for this). I have recognised skills and knowledge that I already have, and it has also encouraged me to learn more to help support my mentee more effectively.”
Allegra Chapman is a marketing strategist and business mentor, helping women to build purposeful businesses. She is also a fiction writer and has very many opinions.
You can find Allegra on Twitter: @Allegra_Chapman