“Far too many people are looking for the right person, instead of trying to be the right person.” –Gloria Steinem
Author and feminist activist Gloria Steinem’s quote rings true in a multitude of relationships, from the personal to the professional.
Fresh off my graduation from college and start in the working world, I found myself wanting to engage with the Iowa City community and gain fulfilling volunteer experience. Steinem’s quote guided my search. I asked myself, how can I make a true and meaningful impact in someone’s life?
While updating my LinkedIn profile last summer, I happened upon a post in my news feed calling for local female professionals to apply to become mentors for young women at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. After digging deeper into the mission of Tippie’s Women in Business (WIB) organization, I was hooked.
The WIB External Mentoring Program matches female undergraduate students at the University of Iowa with local female professionals of similar common career goals and professional interests. Mentors and mentees, also known as “gal pals,” are required to meet at least once a month. My mentee and I treat ourselves to sushi and talk about an array of topics, including:
Advanced degrees and higher education
Leadership styles and conflict management
As a mentor, I aim to inspire my mentee to achieve her goals and foster trusting relationships with her female classmates and other businesswomen. Being a WIB mentor has many benefits such as:
1. Gain a sense of fulfillment
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of South Florida, women who are mentored by other women feel more supported and satisfied in their careers. Sharing your professional experiences with your mentee can make a world of difference in her transition from college to her professional life. For me, supporting young women as they chase their dreams helps me feel like I’m making an impact in my community. It fills my heart with joy on a daily basis.
2. Empower the next generation of female business leaders
As recently as 2015, Iowa has ranked last among the 50 states in growth and success of female-owned businesses. Iowa has landed last or at the bottom of this ranking since the annual survey’s initial release in 2011. Results of the survey, conducted by American Express, point to the need to encourage young women prior to their entrance into the working world. Preparing young women for the potential hardships they will face in the workplace as female professionals can increase their prosperity in business and other fields they enter.
3. Add volunteer experience to your resume
Spending just a few hours a week assisting a service or nonprofit organization can boost your job prospects. The Corporation for National and Community Service found in its 10-year study of 70,000 unemployed individuals that those who had volunteer experience were 27 percent more likely to find a job than those who did not. Investing in your community is an investment in your professional well-being.
4. Connect with passionate and like-minded individuals
Building a strong community of women who genuinely support one another can help those in the group achieve more. According to “shine theory,” a term coined by writers Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman in New York Magazine, spending time with successful women makes you more likely to be successful. Establishing a trusting bond among women can help everyone do more and be more.
Helping to ensure that young female leaders are aware of their worth, value, and abilities is an absolute honor and privilege. For me, becoming a mentor helped me realize that I can be the “right person” in a young woman’s life.
What will you do to assist young women in your community?
Maddie Bro is a project manager at Frank N. Magid Associates, an international research-based strategic consulting firm in Marion, Iowa. She graduated with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and gender studies from the University of Iowa in May 2016, earning highest distinction, university, and departmental honors. In addition to being a WIB mentor, Maddie serves on event planning committees for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and assists with several community projects in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor.