Ask for help. Then pay it forward.
Mentorship is a safe space where we can reveal our vulnerabilities and be open to receiving help and guidance. However, we can't get to this safe space without being comfortable with asking for help.
Before starting Mentorkind, Enhao and I first set out with helping women and job seekers with better networking practices. One thing that struck us as uncanny after countless conversations with the women at our events was that women don't ask for help.
Not only do women not ask for help, we diminish our own needs and rationalize this behavior as not wanting to bother anybody, ever preferring to be the giver and not the taker. The good news is that this feminine desire for giving and sharing will be the infrastructure for propagating an unstoppable chain reaction of giving and sharing amongst women professionals, but this infrastructure is useless unless we vocalize our needs.
The magical thing about mentorship is that it provides a structured space where women can be comfortable with asking for help. In this safe space, mentor and mentee naturally understand the fundamental goal--to provide guidance and fill the knowledge gaps that holds women & minorities back in our careers.
Even better? Anyone can be a mentor. The story of Mentorkind is one of finding your inner courage to both ask for help and offer help to others. If we can banish those false internal stories about not being good enough, then we would undoubtedly find a kind, giving, powerful mentor inside ourselves.
There is strong evidence from recent studies that we have made tremendous progress in closing the gender gap in computer science studies. Harvard reported that 41% of sophomores declaring CS as a primary concentration were women in 2011, and more than half of CS degrees were awarded to female MIT graduates in 2015. This new generation of women in tech is already here, and we must be prepared to do everything in our power to help them ascend to glass-breaking heights in their careers.
Mentorship is a powerful tool for change. If we can all learn to ask for help and to pay it forward, there is no doubt that our collective efforts can push us to parity in the next decades. We are stronger together.
With hope and love,
Xuan & Enhao