This past week, I had the pleasure of joining the ladies of Daylight at the Ladies Support Ladies event where we were able to have an open dialogue about a few key issues: womxn’s safety, wage equality, accessibility, and mentorship. These are just a few of the obstacles faced by womxn while we pursue the success and security that we all deserve. Safety and wage equality, as vital as they are, are not new concepts to us. The main ideas that set this event apart were about what can happen when womxn have the same access to opportunities and proper mentorship to help them grow and succeed.
Ultimately, these are meaningful discussions that need to be had, not only amongst womxn but in all workspaces. When womxn are given a safe space to work, encouragement to grow, and opportunities to flourish, it benefits everyone. As a believer in the power of awareness and conversation, I’m happy to open up this dialogue and share some of my thoughts on this empowering event.
No one would deny that womxn face a spectrum of hardships in the workplace. Particularly womxn of color. But amidst this wide variety of trials and tribulations is the seemingly simple task of finding a mentor. Often taken for granted, a mentor is someone that can show you the way, open doors for you, and hold your hand through your workplace journey.
For womxn, the issue here is that to be someone’s mentor, and ultimately you need to be able to relate to your mentee, empathize with their experience in the industry and give them real, relevant advice on how to get ahead and push past these challenges. Mentorship is about creating relationships based on trust. The truth is that while there are many womxn in the workforce, men hold the majority of high-level positions. This reality makes it challenging to find mentors that can truly understand the female experience in their corresponding industries.
“I owe a lot to my first mentor who helped me navigate and succeed in my first full-time position, so I’m eager to learn more about how Aisha’s working to connect women with women mentors.”
- Anna Gillespie, Director of Accounts at Daylight Studio
The next issue that came up at the event, if you do happen to find someone you believe would be suitable as a mentor, is that you may not know the right way to approach the subject or build that kind of relationship with someone. The appropriate vocabulary often isn’t passed down to womxn, and most of us don’t have an example of how it looks. The way Aisha Ann Hakim, creator of Fellow, put it, “Just ask.” At first glance, it is easy to scoff at the simplicity of this answer, but as the conversation progressed, it became clear that at the end of the day, you have nothing to lose by simply asking for what you need. It is all too easy to shy away from opportunities and relationships when you have no experience in that area or when you are afraid of overstepping boundaries. By simply asking, maybe womxn can begin the process of breaking the habit of minimizing themselves and undermining their personal and professional value. If they say no, perhaps they weren’t meant to be your mentor.
Another concept that was brought up by Aisha Ann is that ultimately, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide womxn with these opportunities and with mentors. If companies prioritize providing womxn and minorities with opportunities and commit to making strides towards empowering their female workforce, they will reap endless benefits. Empowering womxn unlocks new levels of motivation, creativity, and innovation that may have otherwise been unavailable to the company by not having leadership equally as diverse as the team.
“As a company, we view our differences as our strength. They enable each of us to bring a unique perspective and expertise to create solutions for our clients. It is clear that as both as a country and as an industry, we have a long way to go in order to have equality for women in the workplace. We believe it is our responsibility as business owners to do what we can to help move the needle, even in small ways. We are happy to support events like this when they happen, as we view it as the least we can do.”
- Shawn Mann, CEO & Founder of Daylight Studio
Rise and Return the Favor
During the panel part of the evening, someone brought up this point: when other women succeed, their success is your success. Womxn are conditioned to believe that there are limited opportunities available to them. The reality is that, as Trenelle Doyle, Founder of Go Girl Ride, put it, “there is nothing wrong with a little bit of competition. Just because it isn’t happening for you right now, doesn’t mean that it won’t happen for you.”
This brings me to the final point of the event: As you rise, bring other people with you. It is essential to recognize your privilege as you advance through the ranks. You may get opportunities that other womxn or other minorities are not being granted. Create the workplace that you want by opening doors for others and calling out injustices when you see them. Support other womxn along the way by giving them guidance and recognition for what they are doing well. The way Trenelle put it, “It’s not pointing out something that you don’t have, it’s something that they have done well.”
Businesses stand only to gain from empowering womxn and providing them with access to mentorship and growth opportunities. Daylight hopes to continue to provide the team with opportunities to learn and grow, as well as education on the best ways to improve the experience of the team and empower the ladies that help make Daylight the agency it is today.