#13Percent: The Mentorship Challenge

Posted on September 14, 2015

By: Megan Doherty, Principal Planner at Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Department
Connect: Twitter and LinkedIn
downloadIn preparation for my #13Percent guest post, I revisied past articles and caught up on past discussion. As I did so, I noticed a common theme – each of us has been lucky to be positively influenced by at least one strong woman. Most people are part of this conversation because a strong woman took the time to provide guidance, instill confidence, encourage exploration, and inspire greatness. Personally, my life has also been impacted by numerous strong and encouraging women, without whom I may not have had the knowledge or confidence to chart my own course.
Thank you to these strong women, who provided encouragement and opened our eyes to our own value and talents, so we could in turn become strong. Our challenge now is to become those strong women (and strong men supporting women) who insist on equality and diversity in local government for the future generations of leaders. Our strength is essential to growing the #13Percent. In becoming strong women, we cannot forget that women sharing their strength have made the difference for many of us.  We need to become part of the next generation’s stories as well.
The strong women in our lives were  influential because they took time to mentor us, even if that wasn’t what it was called. Mentorship has also been a recurring theme of many #13Percent articles. Megan Cohen challenged us to ”begin with engaging women at a young age, rather than assuming that women will feel supported in seeking positions in government on their own.” In reflecting on lessons she’s learned from the strong women in her life, Brittany Bennett encouraged us to “Share your wisdom. I truly value learning about the paths taken by people I admire. When others share their experiences with me I’m reminded that there’s no one best way to achieve success.” Carmen Mays challenged us to #BeHelpful as we #PushThru towards equitable representation:
“Nobody makes it out here alone. …Do not be threatened by the young and eager. Teach them. Encourage them. Include them. Do not grow weary with veteran practitioners. Teach them. Encourage them. Include them. In all that you do, make sure it counts toward the good. And when it’s your sister’s time to shine, amplify it. After all, no one on the corner has swagger like us.”
And to the #13Percent contributors who went before me, I say – Challenge Accepted.
Taking the time to mentor a girl or woman is an opportunity to be that strong role model in someone’s life. In your past, someone made the wise decision to invest in you – and you were made stronger through this action. We owe it to those strong women throughout our own lives to make the same investment in the next generation of local government leaders.
Here’s the challenge – between now and the end of the year, commit to mentoring or an act of mentorship with at least one female. Make it as formal as you would like. If you are stretched thin, simply commit to taking one aspiring public servant for coffee or lunch. If they’re really young, no one will judge you for taking an afternoon ice cream break instead of a meeting. (Side note/Idea for new ELGL discussion: Can more sprinkles help attract and retain young talent to local government??) Even if your mentee chooses a career outside of local government, you have helped create a stronger individual who is more confident and empowered to help make the world a better place.
Commit to mentorship – Set a goal. Make it happen. Help us grow above and beyond #13Percent.
People Who Might Be interested in Free Coffee and/or Ice Cream (Mentees)
You’ve also accepted the mentorship challenge – AWESOME! Now, where are these people we need to mentor? Most likely, a young woman that could benefit from your guidance is closer than you think….

  • Interns: Almost every local government office has an intern…or ten. They have indicated an interest in local government and are willing to put in the (sometimes uncompensated) time to learn more about public service. Let’s start by providing guidance and encouragement early.
  • College Students: These are the people trying to figure out WHAT TO DO WITH THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. Encouragement, guidance, someone to answer questions – they need it. Check in at the Student Career Center and campus organizations like Student Government and let them know you are available as a mentor, speaker, or simply as a local government resource. (I started in history and archeology, and wound up in urban planning and local government – the indecision is real.)
  • Community Centers and Local Youth Organizations: These service providers are on the front lines of youth care and services in our communities and as a result, get to know the kids and their families pretty well. Check in with staff and see if any kids are interested in learning more about how cities work.
  • Co-Workers: These people have already taken the great leap of faith and committed to public service – yeah! Now it’s up to us to help them succeed. Take the time to share your institutional knowledge and be an available resource as they learn more about the community and the people they serve. Sharing your experiences, particularly if you have worked your way up to a leadership position, is often invaluable. Encourage them to get involved with local organizations and national efforts, like ELGL!


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