Sista, Sista: How A Mentor Can Be The Key To Advancing Your Career
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Did you know Black women in the U.S. are paid 38% less than white men and 21% less than white women? A study by Lean In showed this pay discrepancy; however there is a way for Black women to get paid and advance their career—mentorship.

A mentor is an individual who guides you through a specific career, goal, or even life. The mentor is often an individual who is more senior or advanced in your field and can provide you with advice and even connect you with others. However, like Aaliyah said, “Age ain’t nothing but a number,” (we know, she wasn’t talking about mentorship), so focus on your mentor having experience to usher you to your goals. The Black Girl Ventures Foundation (BGV) conducted an exclusive study of 1,000 working professionals to find out the impact mentorship has for women across races. BGV is an organization that addresses the unique challenges Black and Brown women face in accessing social and financial capital to grow their businesses. We interviewed BGV’s Blog Manager and Sr. Content Writer Frantzces Lys regarding the results and sharing the problem behind Black women and mentorship and why this is causing a career crisis amongst our community.

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When it comes to Black women and mentorship, a constant complaint is that there aren’t ‘enough’ Black women mentors or the Black women at the top are “too burned out.” Lys admits, “There’s truth to that. There aren’t enough Black women in leadership positions that can ‘always’ offer mentorship opportunities. Only 5.3% of Black women held leadership or professional positions in 2020.” With Black women facing disparities in the workplace including microaggressions, lack of diversity, and being passed over for promotions, Lys hypothesizes if “[Black women] have the emotional bandwidth while dealing with these barriers to take on a mentee.” Knowing this, it’s no surprise the study reported that only 64% of the women who mentored Black women were other Black women, while 91.8% of white women mentor other white women. This is a top-down corporate issue that requires restructuring. Lys advises that organizations “create better hiring practices, create inclusive work cultures, mentorship opportunities, and promote more Black women to senior positions.”

Changing institutional structure takes time. We see this with the BGV study reporting that compared to just 5% of men, 15% of women have still never had a mentor. However,  the number one reason for this is not lack of mentors but rather that women don’t know how to find one. Finding a mentor takes advocating for yourself. Lys suggests that you just be direct and ask, “If there’s someone who you admire, you believe you can learn from; you have to ask.” If you are too shy for this, consider joining an organization that encourages and fosters mentorship. Not sure where to start? Check out Cubicles to Cocktails—this organization helps Black and Brown women advance their career through connections, education, events, and support. Sometimes it’s all about being in the room—“Show up everywhere you can. Put yourself in places where you can find a mentor and find ways to network (at your own pace). You want people to say, ‘I’ve seen your name before.’”

Why is it essential to have a mentor? Well, not having one can be part of the reason why you aren’t getting paid your worth or rising up the ranks swiftly. The BGV study reveals that Black women experienced a 37.4% increase in average salary with mentorship, followed by Hispanic women whose salaries increased by 26.3%. A mentor can do multiple things to help you get paid more like helping you navigate your career route, provide opportunities, or connect with C-suite executives at companies you want to work for (if they are in that person’s network). Having a mentor can be the difference between making 60,000.00 a year or 82,400.00 a year. So get yourself in those rooms and network your way to a six-figure job—the sky’s the limit!

Mentorship won’t make or break your career; however it can vastly improve it. Ensure you advocate for yourself by speaking up and asking someone you admire for advice and support. And while mentorship is essential, Lys stresses that sponsorship is equally if not more important, “Having someone within the organization to sponsor a Black woman is the fast track to a leadership role. While advice and support are beneficial, these sponsorship opportunities create an opening for Black women to sit at the table.”

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