Allies and Advocates Are Great, But BIPOC Women Want BIPOC Mentors, Too

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This piece is part of a franchise called 'We In Here,' which is slang for running things like a boss and taking up space in your given field. We spoke to BIPOC women about what they love, what they need and what they strive for in their careers.

After completing my undergrad in 2016, I looked for a mentor who could guide me into the next chapter of my career. While I had many women in my life (shoutout out to my mom) I looked up to, I longed for someone in my own field. As an intern, I had a small pool of potential mentors—the associate editor who taught me how to speak up for myself, the social media manager from whom I learned how to network and the editorial assistant that help me revamp my resume for future employers. But now, as a full-time journalist, I’m still in the search phase. See, similar to the difficulty of finding a BIPOC therapist or BIPOC doctor (that’s a struggle for another day), I’ve always wanted a BIPOC mentor, but always fell short in the pursuit.

I’ll probably get some eye rolls and loads of angry emails asking, “Why does your mentor have to be BIPOC?” or “Why does everything have to be about race?” Well, if you have to ask me that then your privilege is showing. After all, I’m in no way saying a white person isn’t qualified to be my doctor, my therapist or my mentor. In fact, I have had many remarkable white women guide me throughout my career. But there’s something rewarding about seeking help, support and advice from someone who looks like me. 

So, Why Is It So Difficult to Find One? 

One word: representation. Research shows that BIPOC professionals are still underrepresented across career fields—not to mention in high-level roles. This lack of representation makes it harder for mentees to seek out folks of color who’ve advanced in their careers. Oh and if you think mentorship doesn’t impact success, just look at Forbes’s report that states that people who have benefited from a mentor/mentee relationship are more likely to receive raises, be promoted and overall get the support they need to grow in their careers. 

Without that BIPOC representation, many (like me!) feel left out of the conversation. One study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that “Black employees lack the sponsorship and allyship to support their advancement” with over 67 percent reporting they don’t have a sponsor even when their companies have programs put in place. Meanwhile, another report shows 65 percent compared to 16 percent of white employees feel they have to work twice as hard to get to that level of advancement and access to said senior roles. 

Bottom line: Having a BIPOC mentor to counsel you, advocate for you and influence others around you can make such a difference. When you feel like you’re the only person of color in the room, having someone in your corner that understands and looks like you can be such a positive experience. 

So What Are Our Options?

There are, of course, some organizations working to right this wrong. Black Career Women’s Network, We All Grow Latina and Asian American Professional Association are all groups that strive to offer coaching opportunities, mentoring programs and career workshops. A great example is We All Grow Latina, which has an AMIGAS program that supports professionals with an exclusive member directory and mentorship opportunities for the community. "The WAG team [is] leading the way for us. This day will forever be a core memory for us," shares one follower after attending a We All Grow Latina business event this year.

There are also ways we can continue to advocate for ourselves within existing systems. I recently signed up for my company’s mentorship program and even as went as far as specifiying in the form that I’d prefer to have someone that’s BIPOC as my mentor. 

And there’s always the old fashion way of reaching out to someone via email or Linkedin. (I’ll admit, as an introvert I’ve been avoiding this option for a long time.) But it’s not like it has to be a CEO. I can reach out to a coworker, a friend or even someone in a mid-level position. 

Some may say mentoring is like dating and that it just happens organically. But much like my dating life, I’ve grown impatient with letting things just…be. James Zhang, cofounder and CTO of The Bright App said it best in an interview with Lendio: “An older white man who grew up working alongside mostly white men, who went to school with mostly white men, and who had close relationships with mostly white men, is simply far more likely to develop an organic mentorship relationship with another white man than he would with a young Black woman.”

I still have hopes for finding my BIPOC mentor, though. I mean who knows, maybe my future mentor is reading this right now.

6 Ways BIPOC Women Can Advocate for Themselves in the Workplace

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...