I was at a great meeting of African American women last week who have been brought together to help a local foundation develop a policy strategy for the African American community here in the Twin Cities. We are a varied group of women, both Minnesota natives and recent transplants, younger and older, from the nonprofit, corporate, and business sectors. Each of the participants in well connected in the community and leads their institution. Minnesota is a diverse place but in a spread out, you are often the only one from your community in most meetings type of way. As I have been developing my network of support in my new role at Headwaters, I have found that it is difficult, if not impossible to find women of color in leadership roles in philanthropy. It would be great if I could find another young African American woman running a community foundation that is passionate about social justice so we could compare notes and bond over our similar challenges (if you know that woman let me know). What is more realistic and what I have done for most of my career is to find a varied network of support. I have a variety of roles in this new position: fundraiser, manager, strategic planner, chief networker, spokesperson, and administrator. I have found a lot of amazing women and men with experiences in each of these roles and have relied on them to give me good advice and lots of encouragement as I chart new paths and try new ideas out. For me, there has never been just one great mentor. My mentors are in lots of different fields and have a variety of experiences. Most wouldn't call themselves my mentor if you asked them but they have always been available when I have needed help.
My advice to you is to not wait around for your fairy godmentor either, there are lots of great people already in your network who would be willing to fill that role if you only asked.