Growing up as an African young girl in South Africa, or in Africa rather, you grow up believing that you are inferior and weaker than boys. We were groomed by society to believe that being strong-minded, confident and independent is rude and questioning certain things indicates a lack of respect and bad mannerism. We were made to believe that our roles as girls is to nurture the family, this is because we grew up spending more time with our mothers and learn important life skills from them. This way we had built more skill in mentoring relationships available to us – which revolves around the family setting and nothing about career. However, we live in a world driven by the ever changing developments in technology, it is now more than ever girls should be advanced through career mentoring relationships to close the gender gap.
I know this because I grew up believing it too, up to a certain age though. Today I’m one of the experienced Human Resource professional having worked in biggest organisations that are working hard to turnover this narrative, and provide mentoring programmes and always reminding younger women that they have a lot to offer regardless of their background, ethnicity, race and age. After my break into corporate, I had the privilege of having backed by a woman who was my manager at the time, eventually becoming a mentor to me. She was very experienced, cared deeply not only about the work but also young people she worked with. There were days when I felt uncertain and vulnerable, this woman was always there to encourage me and remind me of how talented I was.
As I reflect on my career, I realise the importance of supporting a girl child through mentorship, because someone did that for me too. I would not have been this far if I was not guided and gotten the wisdom of how well one can navigate the daunting corporate environment. More often than not, we hear of the need for mentors in the business world and in missionary camps that are often attended by theology students or aspiring pastors, and maybe hear it here and there in the community, but probably not as often as we should and not as practical as it is preached. As a career women, working professional industries and organisations, our role should be to act as mentors not only for those who made it into corporate but to even younger girls who are still in secondary and primary education.
I know first-hand that building a relationship with someone you look up to is one of the influential method to empower girls and have them realise that there are no limitations to what they can achieve. This is why I have taken upon myself to empower young women, give them skills and train them to use critical thinking and have the emotional intelligence needed to cope with their lives and careers - one girl at the time, because I believe that one of the roles and purposes of being a woman who is committed to working toward a more just world is having determination to be a mentor when and where needed.
There is an old age saying that if the foundation of the building is strong, then it will stay intact forever. With that said, a mentor in a girl child’s life is an immense privilege and if women challenge to change the narrative and share their stories with young girls, we will immediately see a shift in these girls’ attitudes and how they think about their futures.