As I make my final edits to my interview with Brooke Warner of She Writes Press, I keep coming back to her comments about mentoring. Brooke told me she had wonderful mentors in the publishing business — mostly women, but also a few key men — who supported her as she moved up the ranks. She also acknowledged that it isn’t always the case, that for men mentoring is ingrained, less so for women.
Women don’t have a lineage of mentorship and we can’t seem to create one, not yet anyway.
When I ask my interview subjects and clients about role models and mentors, either the subject is rich — their values are reflected in those they choose to emulate — or paltry. I’ve had more than one client tell me she had no role models and no one who would take her under their wing. For many women, this is a deep sadness.
When I interviewed Barbara Bash, she acknowledged the difficulty of finding mentors when she was younger and finding time and energy to mentor others now:
I have turned to a number of older woman for advice over the years, but often sensed that they didn’t want to hold that position, that they didn’t want anyone relying on them. In my own mentoring of younger women, I sometimes feel uncomfortable with the role, hemmed in by having to fulfill something. This is interesting to note! I wonder if women navigate a more complex path around mentoring because of our early caretaker training.
Barbara has set up a paid mentorship to address the problem.
The introduction of money has brought a lot of clarity and full heartedness to my involvement in these conversations. As I continue to navigate this mentoring role, I feel more confident choosing what is appropriate for each situation.
In a recent conversation with a client, she said she didn’t have a mentor, but did look up to a woman she worked for many years ago. Among the qualities she admired: integrity, creativity, and kindness. Most women are not just looking for a leg up. They are trying to find meaningful creative work that they can pursue with integrity and authenticity. They need and crave role models.
In addition to the paid mentoring I offer in my business, I want to create a chain of mentorship for women, a network of people who can provide information and wisdom for one another. I believe we can do this without further depleting ourselves. Would you give an hour over lunch or tea to sit down with a young woman and give her a few pointers, share a few contacts, give her a break?
I’m looking for women I can send my clients to for a little information and encouragement: Women with successful web-based business, women who’ve started theater or dance companies, women who’ve created new systems of distribution in the arts. I’m also reconsidering the Creative Mix interviews for 2016, taking a break from the long form and directing my questions along more pragmatic lines. How do you start a theater company? What are the essentials for creating a webzine? A non-profit?
I’d love to hear from you. What kind of information are you lacking due to lack of contacts and connections? If you’re a successful woman in the arts, would you be willing to take a meeting with someone who needs a little direction? You know where to find me to make that happen.