At Who’s Your Momma LDN, we’re on a mission to not just change one person’s journey but to change the industry from the inside out. To do this we need to speak up and share our stories.
To kick this movement off we’re sharing our first in a series of brave mentor stories from our community, on no other that International Women’s Day 2018. Meet our mentee, here's her brave story:
“ When my mentor and I first met face to face, I was delirious, buoyed up on the adrenaline of quitting my job based on my own moral compass. Not exactly what my mentor had signed up to, I’m sure, when she took on the Who’s Your Momma scheme. Over the course of a glass of wine and a pint of cider, I told my tale. Yet instead of panicking as the reality of what I'd done hit, with my mentor’s help, I saw that I'd made the right decision.
Rewind a month.
My mentor and I had just been paired up, and we had our initial introduction over Skype. Locked in the smallest meeting room in the agency, I rushed through all the issues I faced, careful not to speak too loudly.
If, back then, you’d told me it was a toxic environment, I would’ve shrugged it off and blamed myself for being too sensitive. Now, I look back and wish I’d had the balls to speak out. I was one of three women in our creative department, and the youngest by a decade or two. Every day, I sat through casual conversations of sexual harassment, listened to in-depth discussions about sex and naked women, and was told on one occasion (by a male co worker), that “sexism just doesn’t exist in the workplace”. I'm no prude. But do I want to listen to men talking about all this while I'm at work? Nah. Not really.
I think I kept most of this to myself during our first online chat, and instead asked for advice around asserting myself in a male-dominated environment.
However, between that chat and our first proper meeting, I went from having a concrete career path in an agency I enjoyed working at, to being an unemployed, “over-sensitive” writer.
I won’t go into all the details, but a new senior manager took over, and made the toxic, masculine, sexist environment a million times worse. He was eventually fired, but it was too little, too late.
With my mentor’s support, I tried a load of different avenues. And like a good ‘momma’, she let me make those mistakes. She let me learn and grow. And once I’d given something a go, she was my sounding board. She gave me a space to air my thoughts and come to conclusions I needed to realise.
When I thought freelancing was a good option, she introduced me to a successful freelance colleague of hers. I quickly realised – well, both of us did – that I was not “one of nature’s freelancers”.
I then found a job in-house. But the lack of creativity and the quashing of ambition drove me out. I missed the buzz and the fast-paced atmosphere of agency life. But I was scared to return to an agency again, after being burnt at what I thought was my dream job.
With my mentor’s help, I grew not only in the confidence I had in myself and my decisions, but also in my career plan. I was back on track. I know where I want to be, and how to – hopefully – get there.
It hasn’t been the journey that either of us expected, and I’m sure my mentor worried when I turned up with various new plans to our meetings. But she was a constant during a time of a lot of change and growth, and the gratitude I have to her, well, I just can’t put it into words. She created a space where I could question and be questioned, where I could really discover what I wanted and what I needed from my career.
I've never felt so empowered and excited to be a creative - and a woman - in our industry. And I really hope that when I've climbed the rungs a bit more, I can offer the same space to another woman starting out in her creative career.”
Mentoring isn’t just a one way experience however, here’s what Heather DeLand, the fantastic mentor, had to say on the experience:
"To my mentee, thank you for your generosity in sharing.
Just for the record though, I didn’t worry about you just because things were changing from session to session. Why should life be static? One thing didn’t change and that was you – you knew who you were, that you were a hard worker, that you wanted to write, and that you wanted to advance. What was changing was the detail. And the way other people were deciding to treat you.
You had the answers, I just reflected them back to you.
You never stopped smiling.
You’ve done really well and I’m so proud.
Also, err… I’ve been rumbled in that I am rather a boozy momma, I do like putting a strong drink in front of a woman who is on her way up. Steadies the nerves.
I must admit I was so naïve going in, I thought ‘ooh mentoring – perhaps I’ll get to help a woman discover her own personal leadership style, how lovely’ but actually here we were talking about 1970s era sexism, joblessness, hope, horses and in the end, a new journey. I learned lots from it and am now supporting a woman with life challenges I don’t think I would have been able sit with quite so confidently, had I not learned so much from watching my mentee find her feet so ably.
A pleasure, an honour, and I’m looking forward to the next involvement I can have with Who’s Your Momma."
Thank you to both mentor and mentee for boldly sharing their story with us to kick off this series. If you would like to share (anonymously if needed) your mentor story with us and how it has changed your life, please email us: email@example.com
Who's Your Momma London is run by co-directors Rachel Gott & Casey Bird, with the support of a community of over 200 women (and fantastic manbassadors). To find out more about the scheme or get involved head here.