ITL #464   Women in Communications: the power of mentorship

8 months, 2 weeks ago

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It’s time for women to detox from being overly apologetic and celebrate their own remarkable talents. By Kate Dobrucki.



Part One: Thank you, next.

I swear this essay isn’t going to be about my adoration of all things pink and pop-music. That said, any Arianators out there hit me up, we’ll chat over a couple glasses of Rose.

 

It’s about the power of mentorship.

 

I speak a lot about the importance of mentorship, of women being both mentors and mentees. And now as a VP at a global ad agency I think of mentorship as my civic duty. I leaned in, stood-up and should be seen. My 20-something self would have wanted to see more of women just like me.

 

I think where a lot of women get stuck on mentorship is that many think it needs to be this very structured and formal relationship. But for me, mentorship commonly takes a much more subtle and informal arrangement.

 

Take for example when I first started out in the advertising industry. I was an approval-seeking Account Executive, equal parts apologetic and eager. Hell, I brought cupcakes on my first day. I started most emails with “sorry to bother…”, spoke up in meetings leading with “sorry to interrupt…”. And as I progressed through my career the apologizing didn’t stop, it evolved to “sorry for being late” and, “apologies for the late reply”.

 

Until I met Cathy.

 

The agency I was at had a big presentation to Cathy’s team and, after going over by five minutes I (you guessed it) was apologizing. As Cathy and the team was leaving the room, she looked at me and brazenly said, “Do me a favour, replace sorry with thank-you”. The conversation in total were those nine words, but that two-minute interaction has stuck with me. I mean at first, I had no idea what she meant but, sitting at my desk that evening, drafting the summary email and starting with “sorry for the late note” it clicked. And instead I typed, “thanks so much for the time today”, the next day walking into a meeting five minutes late I started with “thanks so much for waiting”. And I’ve never looked back.

 

My point? Mentorship can be structured and formal and I work with outstanding organizations like Dress for Success. BUT mentorship can also be subtle, informal and take just  two minutes of your time. For me, sometimes mentorship takes place walking to get coffee, and some of the best advice I’ve received from my many mentors was communicated in simple, concise sentences. I could go on for hours about the waitress at my favourite Parisian café that said “do what you want” when I asked about tipping.

 

Also, and most importantly, for those chronic apologizers out there, I encourage you to take a sorry-detox. And much like me I hope you feel lighter, less slouched and more confident. I’m learning to hold my apologies in reserve for when they’re truly needed or embracing silence instead. And in a culture that teaches women to apologize for everything – that feels like a quietly radical act.

 

Part Two: A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.

I was recently daydreaming about dining at my favourite Parisian bistro in the 6th Arrondissement. I’ve learnt loads of life lessons here, but one in particular stands out, and, close to International Women’s Day, is oh so relevant.

 

Years ago, on a gorgeous June day I was tucked away in the corner with my Chardonnay. Left to myself I had the perfect advantage to watch the tourists. Then a woman around my age sat at the table right next to me. Flush with the post Bon Marché high she quickly ordered a cappuccino – lactose free, she insisted.

 

Many minutes later the waitress returned with a black coffee. The woman taken aback, looked at the order in front of her, slightly horrified but said nothing. She looked around the café and making eye contact with me shrugged her shoulders and begrudgingly took a sip of the coffee.

 

My point? She didn’t speak up. She didn’t say anything. She wasn’t in the wrong but was afraid to say what she wanted. And so, she didn’t get what she wanted.

 

Now, I get it. Most of you reading this are likely giving me an exaggerated eye roll, you of course would never allow this to happen. You are not afraid to speak your truths. I sure thought I was, until I wasn’t.

 

Two years ago, during International Women’s Week I led a Goggle workshop called #IAmRemarkable. The goal was simple: challenge the perception on self-promotion. Intended for women only we had a safe place to acknowledge, accept and celebrate all of our accomplishments. It’s not as easy as you think.

 

Even I; a champion for women was at a loss when our facilitator gave us  five minutes to finish the sentence “I am remarkable because…” Try it. Set your timer for five minutes and see if you can write anything. And no, you cannot belittle the exercise and respond with, because I am intelligent, empathetic, or caring. You’re more remarkable than those adjectives and you know it.

 

I knew it about myself. I am remarkable because I’m a Vice President. Full stop. Because I’m the head coach of the Special Olympic Toronto Alpine Team. I am remarkable because I’ve stood up for what I deserve in a partner even if that means standing alone. I was afraid to say why I was remarkable. Why?

 

Because I was bragging? But it’s not bragging, those are facts. Facts I’ve worked hard to accomplish, I’m the biggest fangirl for so many women in my life but I was forgetting the most important, most talented person in my life. ME.

 

I was afraid to list my accomplishments, and that meant I wasn’t celebrating them, and I sure wasn’t asking for what I really wanted from my employer. I was afraid to say what I wanted at work, and so why should I be surprised I wasn’t getting what I wanted.

 

So, I did it. I’d been drinking black coffee for months and you want to know what I found? That when you can clearly articulate exactly what you want, when you confidently list your accomplishments and boldly take a stand, people will listen, and you’ll get that lactose free cappuccino.

 

Author’s note: Practicing using these accomplishment muscles are the most important. Having a mentor, connecting with other female colleagues and joining networks help. If you have the time I invite you to check out a podcast I co-host Womxn Who podcast

Womxn Who represents a sea change — a fiercely progressive movement designed by and for professional womxn. And, on this podcast, myself and co-host Simren Deogun are on a quest to unite every mentor, leader, thought-maker, and game-changer to inspire, promote self-awareness and understanding, and, together propel the womxn leadership movement forward.  

 

 

 


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The Author

Kate Dobrucki

Kate Dobrucki, VP Communications, Canada, Dentsu. A lifelong storyteller, brands can count on Kate to get to the point and spread the word. She is an industry-leading VP, with 15+ years of strategic PR experience across experiential, social and digital.

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