For most of us, achieving our dreams will not be reached through hard work alone. We all start at different stations in life, and for those who may come from more challenging circumstances, solid guidance from established leaders can make all the difference in the world.
We see it in boardrooms and c-suites across industries: Women and people of color are grossly underrepresented. According to research, women hold under 25% of senior executive titles in the United States, and there are just 4 Black CEOs in the Fortune 500. We never had a Latina Fortune 500 CEO until last year. How can we, as leaders, help even the field?
In my experience, I’ve found that people in positions of power can be a part of the solution by mentoring young people of diverse backgrounds looking to positively impact the community.
Without a mentor, young women and people of color often do not see themselves in the faces of the existing leadership in their fields. Implicit biases affect everyone, and surely result in communities and industries missing out on some remarkable young people that are otherwise poised to be future leaders. Often, all they need is a little bit of guidance, a leader who believes in them, and a clear vision on how to achieve their goals and make it to the next level.
Mentorship from an established leader can change a promising young person’s trajectory. It is a vote of confidence that will not only affect how the young person views him- or herself, but others in the community or profession will take note as well.
A mentor can also help open previously locked doors for promising young leaders. We all have varying degrees of privilege, and if established leadership wants to help achieve community equity, we can use our positions to expedite the cause.
I know countless leaders who want to help foster equity in the community, but they’re not sure how to go about doing that. We can all help foster change and equity–as well as the trajectory of a young person’s life–by mentoring young people who may not have had all the same opportunities growing up.