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Can’t Find a Female Mentor? Create a Circle.

Courtesy Britt Bravo
Courtesy Britt Bravo

Guest Post by Britt Bravo, Premium Consultant at Tracking Wonder

Note: Britt Bravo helps our clients shape their ideas into story-based brands and broadcast their message to the right audiences. Her local paper named her the “best podcaster and blogger most dedicated to social change.” She’s also mentoring a few people in our ArtMark™ Brand Story & Strategy program. I’m thrilled to have her on board the team and serving the TW Community. Find out more here: ArtMark™. – Jeffrey

I’ve never had a mentor to guide me on my career path. If you’re a woman, and haven’t had a mentor either, you’re not alone. According to a 2011 LinkedIn survey of almost 1,000 female professionals in the U.S., nearly one in five women have never had a mentor.

It’s not surprising to me that so many women haven’t been mentored. Few role models exist in American culture of women having mentors, and even fewer of women being mentors. Neo has Morpheus in The Matrix, Daniel has Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, and Luke has Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, but few heroines in American culture are depicted having mentors, especially female ones.

Although I’ve never had a mentor, I have been a part of many Circles of women where we supported each other along our paths:

  • For ten years, I gathered six women from different arts-related and creative fields to have dinner at a local restaurant each month to discuss and keep us accountable around our professional goals.
  • For two years, I co-worked weekly with three other women entrepreneurs. During our tea breaks and lunches we shared knowledge about everything from the best e-news software, to how to communicate with a difficult client, and we brainstormed ideas for new products and services.
  • For three years, I organized a monthly virtual “social change” book club of 4-6 bloggers where we read books about challenging issues that we knew we might not finish on our own. We discussed not only the author’s point of view, but also how we felt about the issues ourselves, and wanted to take action on them in our own lives.
  • And for almost 20 years, I’ve had brunch, or dinner a few times a year with a group of women who went to the same college as I did. We talk not only about work, but also about how to balance work with the rest of our lives, especially as we enter midlife.

These groups have all influenced my work, my path and my purpose. They have provided work opportunities, grown my professional network, and helped me move through challenges. They led me to learn new skills and better understand myself. Plus, they were all super fun!

If you’d like to create a Circle in 2017, here are 5 tips to get you started:

1. Determine the Circle’s purpose.

When you invite people to join your Circle, they’ll want to know what they’re signing up for. For example, if you all participated in Tracking Wonder’s Quest 2017, you could keep each other accountable as you work towards the goals and ideas that came up during Quest.

2. Decide if you want a virtual, or face-to-face Circle.

Face-to-face groups can connect you to local resources, grow your connection to your community, and may spark friendships that can be a part of your life outside of the Circle. Virtual groups can be a little easier to schedule, pose no space constraints, and can potentially connect you with a broader range of people and resources.

3. Invite people to be a part of your Circle.

I think it’s easier to keep momentum going in a group when there is some kind of existing social tie, even if it is a weak one, between the lead organizer and the rest of the Circle. So ask your friends, friends of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and social media community. If you’re part of the Tracking Wonder’s Quest, or Writing Den Facebook groups, post an announcement there too. If you’re an ArtMark alum, see if your Pod wants to start meeting again.

4. Choose a place and time to meet.

If you’re organizing an in-person group, you’ll need to pick a place that is easily accessible by car (include ease of parking into the equation) and public transport (if that is an option where you live). The space needs to be big enough to seat all of you, and if you’re at a restaurant, where they don’t mind if you stay for 1.5-2 hours. The pros of meeting at a café or affordable restaurant are that no one has to host, and everyone can be focused on the purpose of the meeting. The cons are the cost and sometimes the noise level.

The pros of meeting at someone’s home are the quiet, comfort level, and cost. The cons are that the host will always be somewhat distracted and people may feel obliged to stay longer to socialize, or clean up, so the time commitment can become longer. If you’re inviting people you don’t know well to your Circle, please use good safety sense and start out meeting in a public place rather than at your home.

World Time Server and Doodle can help you find a meeting time that works for everyone, and there are a multitude of options now for group video and phone calls (e.g. Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom, Freeconferencecall.com). You could also do a mix of in-person and virtual meetings with email check-ins between gatherings. Or in-person meetings where some people participate by speakerphone, or FaceTime. A GorillaPod works well to “seat” a phone at a table so everyone can see the person.

5. Be purposeful, but flexible.

Start your group with a particular goal and purpose in mind, but let it grow organically. For example, the woman who organized the co-working group I mentioned above, originally envisioned that there would be a diverse group of women entrepreneurs co-working together each week, but in the end, there were three of us who showed up religiously.

Don’t get me wrong. Women need mentors and the world definitely needs more women mentors, but if you don’t have a mentor at this time in your life, don’t let that stop you from getting the support you need to do the work you’re called to do.

I don’t know where this saying originated, but I know it to be true:

“Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.”

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