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Empowering women leaders through mentorship

Empowering women leaders through mentorship: Celebrating International Women’s Day with City Year AmeriCorps members

Today is International Women’s Day—a day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, with a focus this year to #EmbraceEquity. City Year Little Rock chose this day to kick off our inaugural Women’s Leadership Council, a new mentoring program for our female-identifying corps members.

City Year’s heart = AmeriCorps members

This year, 23 AmeriCorps members between the ages of 18 and 25 are serving in four local schools, and 13 of them identify as women. As much as I love our Whole School, Whole Child model focusing on strengthening attendance, behavior and course grades in elementary and middle schools, it’s our AmeriCorps members who have my heart. I love watching them stretch themselves and grow in every direction over the course of their year or two of service.

We need more female mentors in the workplace

I was 35 years old before I saw firsthand what female leadership in the workplace looks like. During my first decade of work, I experienced the following:

  • My first job post-college was at a residential treatment facility for youth of limitless potential who lacked access to the kinds of resources and relationships they needed to flourish due to systemic inequities. During a staff meeting, my boss scolded me in front of my male counterparts for “tempting the boys” because I wore shorts to work. As he chastised me, he quoted song lyrics so raunchy they made me blush. He laughed hysterically. My male coworkers laughed and gave each other high fives.
  • A few years later, another boss told me, “I have to hire women for your position because I can’t pay men enough to provide for a family.”
  • I once asked a male coworker if he had an opinion as to how I should handle an issue. He grinned slyly and said, “Whatever blows your skirt up.”

Thankfully, since then, I’ve had the privilege of learning from some very powerful women—one who grew a publishing empire and another who built a pediatric health system. Women who’ve “earned a seat at the table” and “run with the big boys.”

But I want so much more than that for the young women at City Year Little Rock and for my own daughters. I don’t want them to just have a seat at the table. I want them to flip the table over! I don’t want them to run with the big boys. I want them to re-route the race and change the pace completely!

Mentoring fosters future leaders

At City Year, we strive to empower our corps members with the tools, connections and confidence to make this world a safer place for all women—especially BIPOC women and trans women, who are the most vulnerable among us.

One of City Year’s core values is “Ubuntu,” a Zulu word meaning, “My humanity is tied to yours. I am because you are.” What a wonderful world it will be when all humans embrace the spirit of Ubuntu. When those in elected office and positions of authority choose to protect the most vulnerable from real harm. When people of all genders, races and creeds treat each other kindly and equitably. When Black history is taught 12 months out of the year and women’s achievements are celebrated 365 days a year.

And so, we start here—with the City Year Little Rock Women’s Leadership Council. By pairing AmeriCorps members with female mentors of diverse industries and backgrounds, we will help these dedicated young adults lay the groundwork for life post-City Year.

Because if you can see it, you can be it.

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Interested in joining City Year? Learn more about the AmeriCorps member experience at City Year Little Rock.

Jennifer Cobb, executive director of City Year Tulsa
Jennifer Cobb is executive director of City Year Little Rock.

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