I recently attended a luncheon, “The Value of Mentoring Relationships,” which was sponsored by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce Executive Women’s Council. One of the speakers was a heroine of mine, Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Wilhelmina Wright, who shared that having certain mentors was pivotal in her rise from private practice attorney to state supreme court justice. She spoke of the need to create one’s own “board of directors” comprised of various mentors who may fulfill different roles–the confidant, someone who can help you network, an idea person, and so on.
Justice Wright ended by quoting Marian Wright Edelman, “Mentoring is the rent you pay for living.” This quote absolutely grabbed me; I couldn’t agree more.
I’ve been extremely honored to have the privilege of acting as mentor to a number of younger lawyers, law students, and persons trying to establish themselves in non-legal careers. Last week I had lunch with a past mentee, Alyssa, a University of St. Thomas Law School graduate who recently passed the Wisconsin bar and is awaiting word on a Milwaukee job prospect. Several weeks ago, I had helped her prepare for that job interview.
My lunch with Alyssa was some catching up on our respective lives and planning for what she’ll do if this job doesn’t come through. What struck me most was her gratitude for our past relationship and the kind words she had for the impact that I’ve had on her views about diversity and inclusion. As she related, she grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she never met anyone “different” from her. I’m the first transgender person she’s known. Understanding that, and then hearing that she valued my opinions and guidance, simply made me feel good. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to positively influence Alyssa. It is, as I said, an honor. It’s also a responsibility that I take seriously.
I believe that everyone has something to offer in terms of mentoring to another person. I also believe that mentors can be crucial toward helping a mentee develop the confidence and perspective needed to succeed. Women in particular benefit from mentoring; after all, in many ways the deck is stacked against them. A mentor can serve as a navigator for younger women, giving them the extra edge that’s needed to succeed.
If you’re a younger person reading this, I urge you to reach out to someone you respect. Ask if they’d be your mentor; I suspect that person, like me, would be honored by your request.
If the person reading this blog entry is older, I ask that you offer to mentor to a younger person. We experienced folks owe it to the younger generation–after all, it’s that “rent” stuff.