The woman I am today has a lot to do with the women I’ve met throughout my life. I come from a single-mother home. I have tons of outspoken, brave, hilarious aunties. I went to a university that had a student body of largely women. I work in a sector that is largely made up of women. I am an intersectional feminist. I love being surrounded by inspiring women and have been so lucky in my short career to be mentored by some of the most incredible women out there.
I’d like to take some time to recognize how they’ve shaped me.
When I began my first professional fundraising job, I had a boss who I immediately bonded with. A single mother. A feminist. An amazing and creative fundraiser. She encouraged my ideas and pushed me to dream. Her leadership transformed me into a confident fundraiser. It is because of her encouragement that I no longer believe there is a ceiling to what I can accomplish in my career. She became one of my best friends and continues to help shape and guide both who I am as a person and who I am striving to be professionally.
My professional association has a great mentorship program (check if your work has one and, if so, take advantage of it). When I joined, I was matched with an incredible woman who has been in the sector for over 30 years. She is a phenomenal writer and direct mail genius. Her depth of knowledge is never-ending and she is a shining example of a woman who has paved her own way, runs a successful business, and just generally kills it. When I was getting run down and stuck in a job I no longer loved, she helped me revise my resume and search for jobs – she actually found me the job I am currently in (and loving!). She taught me how to sell not just a cause, but myself. She taught me style and grace in dealing with difficult people and how to present myself for success in all things.
I am also constantly being led by women who have no idea that I am their protégé. I follow as many female leaders in my sector as I can on social media, attend as many workshops as possible, and take in as many drops of their wisdom as I can. The non-profit sector certainly has a long way to go when it comes to getting women into positions of power and adopting a more inclusive vision for our work. But at the same time, there is so much knowledge we can glean from those who have paved the way for us. I am inspired by the women in this sector who have fought for their dreams and for the betterment of the world.
Calling all young women: Get a mentor. Get as many mentors as you can. Learn as much as you can. And then let’s get to work.
Calling all women who are established in their sector: Be a mentor. Pull up the women who are behind you. Lend your wisdom and your experience. Remember that we are your legacy. And, above all:! Help open doors for other women and do your part to bring those opportunities forward. The women around you may be facing more challenges than you, and it’s your responsibility to lift-up women of colour, trans women, and other marginalized groups. Remember – we’ve only truly reached equality if we all get there together.
Who has helped shape who you are at home and at work? Take some time today to email, call, or text them and let them know how impactful they’ve been for you.
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