The Impacts of a Mentorship Program for Young Black Women
YouthREX supported netWORKING: A Young Black Women’s Mentorship Project, an initiative of Toronto’s Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre, to evaluate program impact. REX Blog is sharing reflections from participants on the themes that emerged, and including quotes from mentors who were asked to examine the impacts they witnessed for mentees, themselves, and the community.
Participating in netWORKING as a mentee and now as a peer facilitator has impacted me tremendously in a positive way. Very few spaces within the city are exclusively for Black people, especially for Black women. There are 1.2 million people who self-identify as Black in Canada, and Black women and girls make up 620,000 of the Black population. That is a small minority of an already small population of people.
The netWORKING program is a safe space for Black women, by Black women. Being surrounded by Black women in your age group and mentored by Black women in careers you aspire to be in is a refreshing experience. Representation matters!
WATCH this video from Women’s Health in Women’s Hands on program participants’ thoughts about who young Black women are:
The netWORKING program provides a positive environment for young Black women to be mentored and empowered. Through this program, mentees can meet and connect with peers across the city and build lasting friendships and connections as they navigate early adulthood.
This program is not solely focused on career mentoring; it is holistic and addresses all things concerning Black women. Workshops on financial literacy, self-care, health, relationships, and mental health, specifically designed for Black women, are hard to find. The netWORKING program offers these workshops, curated with the Black experience in mind, while recognizing some of the barriers that exist within our communities that mentees may face.
Many negative stereotypes about Black women are represented in the media. For example, the ‘angry Black woman’. This stereotype pushes the narrative that Black women are likelier to be belligerent, aggressive, hostile, ill-tempered, and bitter. This stereotype negatively impacts Black women in the workforce, in school, and in other areas. We do not want to be viewed as an ‘angry Black woman’ who limits expressions of emotions, especially in infuriating circumstances.
The mentors in the netWORKING program offer advice and tools necessary to dismantle negative stereotypes, deal with microaggressions, and receive advice from individuals who understand what you are communicating and have also experienced similar situations. This is validating and affirming to know that you are not alone.
The number one benefit I have gained in this program is the sense of community. Through this community, I have become a better person. I have built a more positive sense of self and discovered a community of Black women supporting me and cheering me on as I journey through life. This kind of mentorship is priceless.
What have other netWORKING program mentors seen happen as a result of mentees and mentors connecting in community?
- Mariah Giscombe, netWORKING Mentor, Certified Life Coach, Author & Business Strategist: As a result of mentees and mentors connecting in community, I’ve seen young Black women become inspired to confidently start up new businesses and go after amazing professional opportunities. I’ve also seen young Black women become unapologetic about taking up space and become champions of radical self-love and self-care.
- Alisha Morgan, netWORKING Mentor, Physiotherapist & Certified Life Coach: As a result of mentees and mentors coming together in community, I’ve witnessed a lot of compassion. I’ve seen the mentees experience compassion for themselves and for where they currently are on their journey. There is so much pressure on young people to have their lives all figured out. So when they’ve had the opportunity to connect with mentors and see that even though we’re older, we’re still figuring it out, I think that relieves some of the pressure they feel and creates space for them to be in the unknown and explore. I’ve seen the mentors experience compassion for themselves as well. Unfortunately, many of us did not have mentorship opportunities when we were younger. This resulted in a lot of trial-and-error and figuring things out as we went along. The recognition of the fact that we’ve succeeded in so many ways with what we knew and what we had at the time has been very powerful for me personally and it makes me so proud of the younger version of myself and the younger version of all of the mentors. I also believe that mentees and mentors coming together has led to compassion for each other. Different generations tend to find fault with each other, so this opportunity to be in community has allowed us to gain a deeper understanding into each other’s perspectives. It’s opened my eyes to the power, resilience, wisdom, and vulnerability in young Black women and it makes me so hopeful for the future.