3 Ways to Empower Young Women: My Experience with Female Mentorship
My passion for empowering women has driven me to volunteer as a female mentor on several occasions. In college I volunteered with the Rosedale Achievement Center mentoring and tutoring high school students from the South Bronx, and I currently volunteer with iMentor where I mentor a high school student at a Bronx high school and support her in preparing for college. It has been such a pleasure and an honor to mentor these incredible young women, and through these programs I have learned that you can empower young women by being their cheerleader, listening and affirming them, and asking how you can provide support.
1. Be a cheerleader
My mentee is an incredibly impressive student and person, but she doesn’t hear it enough. She is intelligent, has a strong work ethic, and will undoubtedly succeed at college and beyond. Whenever I compliment her on these characteristics, she is taken aback since she doesn’t hear these affirmations on a regular basis.
We need to empower young women in the world and let them know how amazing they are. Society already demeans women for who we are calling us “bossy,” “shrill,” or “nasty.” Women’s accomplishments are too often overshadowed by men and any mistakes are seen as disqualifying. If you’ve ever watched female actresses being interviewed, it’s likely that she’ll be asked more about her outfits or appearance than she will be asked about her talents or skills. We need to be cheerleaders for young women, so they can know and embrace their inner beauty. We can empower women by giving them meaningful compliments that affirm their talents, dreams, and skills. Let them know that they can achieve great things and they will.
2. Listen and affirm
In a society where so many women are interrupted, unheard, or silenced, sometimes the best thing you can do for a young woman is to listen to her. My current mentee has so much to say about high school, college applications, and social life. She’ll anticipate our conversations, so she can vent about a difficult assignment, ask me if I like the hairstyle she plans to wear for senior pictures, or talk about what’s on her mind regarding life after high school.
She’s a straight-A student who is involved in a multitude of clubs and activities at her school and more than 90% of the time she doesn’t need my help; she just needs someone to listen to her. So I give her the space to tell me what’s going on in her life, and I listen. I tell her it’s okay that she’s sad about how due to the pandemic their prom is cancelled, that it’s tough to decide whether to go to a college close to home or far away, and that it’s overwhelming to learn in a virtual setting. Even though I can’t solve all of her problems, sometimes listening to her stories and affirming her feelings are some of the best things I can do for her.
3. Ask how you can provide support
I will often ask my mentee what I can help her with before jumping in and offering my suggestions or advice. To support her in the best way possible, I never want to assume her needs, but rather make sure that I’m meeting the needs she’s communicating to me. For example, instead of telling her what colleges to apply to, I asked her a variety of questions about what she wants in a college. From there, we came up with a college list with schools to which she was excited to apply.
Letting my mentee lead the conversation has given her the space to feel empowered and know that I am there to help her meet her goals and achieve her dreams. I’m not there to push her in a certain direction, but rather guide her on the path she has chosen.
Whether you’re a mentor, relative, or friend, it’s crucial that we empower young women to embrace their inner beauty. If you’re looking to hear from some empowered women who are following their dreams, listen to the Ignited by Inner Beauty podcast.