The Inspiring Leadership Trust is built on the notion that when women empower one another, they can change the world. We work to make this notion a reality through our mentoring programmes. Our mentors are each assigned to a young woman to help them “realise their full potential and achieve success in work and life.” These relationships provide the tools for our beneficiaries to not only achieve their personal goals but engage in community action and benefit the lives of others. We have found that, ultimately, this programme has a circular effect: the benefits are felt not only by the mentee but the wider community as they become empowered to enact societal change themselves.
Charlotte’s story speaks powerfully to this aspect of female mentorship. While attending a lunch with the Inspiring Leadership Trust, she was paired up with her first mentor. During this time, Charlotte has described herself at her lowest point. Having dealt with multiple hardships throughout her life, she was struggling with intense anxiety and leaving the house. Her life had largely centred around caring for others: going through motherhood at a young age, and becoming a carer for a loved one.
While she has always had the ambition to pursue a professional path, these challenges left her lacking the confidence and necessary guidance to find the right route for her. Her relationship with her mentor changed this. Her relationship with her mentor changed this. In Charlotte’s own words,
“[My mentor] was there at the beginning to build me up…the confidence that she gave me, it gives me the ability to keep moving forward.”
A mentor provided Charlotte with the valuable opportunity to have her goals, opinions, and fears completely listened to. For the first time, Charlotte was asked what she wanted, the answer was direction. Together, they “made mind-maps of potential jobs ranging from childcare to M15.” With an outline of appropriate jobs, Charlotte and her mentor then practised using professional skills which are vital for seeking out these opportunities. These included sending emails, networking, and establishing professional boundaries. While seemingly simple tasks, doing these well can make all the difference in progressing professionally while maintaining one’s mental wellbeing. A mentor can provide critical guidance on navigating these tasks, which are initially daunting when one has not been fortunate enough to have a figure in their personal life who can fill this role.
Since connecting with her first mentor, Charlotte hasn’t stopped. She continues to move forward exceptionally in pursuit of her goals. Currently, she is midway through her degree and excelling academically. She finished her second year with an outstanding average of 74%, once again defying adversity. At the time, Charlotte’s learning difficulty was yet to be diagnosed and she was examined without additional support measures.
The benefits of this mentoring relationship have transcended into Charlotte’s community. She currently manages two Facebook groups for the area that she lives in. These provide a strong sense of community for those who live thereby keeping them updated on current events. Throughout the pandemic, Charlotte used these pages to organise food handouts. These were undoubtedly a vital source of support to vulnerable members of her community during a particularly isolating and frightening time.
Charlotte has always had a desire to give back to others. However, she credits her mentors for empowering her with the confidence and professional skills to put this unwavering commitment into action. She noted that the work she carried out with establishing boundaries was partially the catalyst in establishing these Facebook groups. She was empowered to take the first step and reach out, confident in her ability to take downtime when necessary.
While she continues to excel at university and contribute to her community, Charlotte hopes to ultimately become a mentor with the Inspiring Leadership Trust. She aspires to use her lived experience of overcoming adversity to empower the next generation of women. From beneficiary to mentor, her journey exemplifies the value of mentorship as it comes full circle.
– Written and researched by Constanza Ceccetti Peregrini, ILT Volunteer
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