“I don’t think there is a right age to find a mentor, and I don’t think mentorship is only for ultimate career decisions. Just think of the problem you want to solve right now, and then leverage your network. The support and encouragement you need is there.”
Wise words for women and girls spoken by Ellevate Network CEO Kristy Wallace, just days before Ellevate’s third annual #MobilizeWomen Summit hits NYC. And make no mistake – Ellevate knows how to network. Amassing a stellar lineup of speakers and with panel topics ranging from the power of empathy and intersectional identities to changing the culture of business and starting a revolution, Ellevate’s event does more than #MobilizeWomen. It motivates girls – holding up luminaries in areas like politics, sports, finance, education, music and the military for the next generation to see. Role models are found in the space of a day, and the impact of their words can last a lifetime. We were thrilled to speak with Kristy about the upcoming Summit, the importance of networking and why female mentorship is key for the advancement of today’s girls.
Ê: We’re so happy to talk to you, and we can’t wait for #MobilizeWomen! What are you most excited about this year?
KW: Three things, really. First, the community we are building. Each year the event grows more diverse and more powerful, and that makes everyone feel so welcome. It feels like a family. And that’s how we change the world. That leads to the second thing, the conversations we’re having. Every year we push the envelope a little further, and as we do the content evolves and the discussions deepen. The event is both thoughtful and truly action-oriented. Finally, the younger generation we are including. The youth panel we have this year reinforces how important it is to expose kids to these conversations.
Ê: Why is extending this to the next generation so important?
KW: Cross-generational dynamics in the workplace can be tricky, and talking openly about that is helpful. A whole generation might rise up the corporate ladder, but then the nature of their work changes. New technologies emerge and roles that didn’t exist before are now part of the workforce. So when we talk about diversity, we need to include diversity of age too.
Ê: Do you think this changes how – and whom – we mentor?
KW: Absolutely. In some ways it makes it harder to mentor, because you might think you don’t have the expertise to mentor someone else. But mentorship comes down to how well you listen and then how your past experiences shed new light on their questions. Women often question whether or not they should try to be mentors, but you have to remember: you don’t have to have the exact right expertise…your experience is what others need.
Ê: Who was your first mentor?
KW: My first mentor was my Girl Scout troop leader! Her name was Lynn Shepherd and she taught me so much about confidence, exploring authentic areas of interest and caring about the community around me. I still keep in touch with her.
Ê: What advice would you give to young girls today about finding a mentor?
KW: A mentor doesn’t have to be older than you or one of your parents’ friends. It could be a teacher or a coach, but siblings can also be mentors and so can your peers. Peer mentoring is important throughout your life. I don’t think there is a right age to find a mentor, and I don’t think mentorship is only for ultimate career decisions. Just think of the problem you want to solve right now, and then leverage your network. The support and encouragement you need is there.
In other words, don’t go in looking for a long-term commitment or for advice you’ll need 20 years from now. Find someone you can talk to – because rapport matters – and just have a short conversation today. Ask for 30 minutes…they might say yes!
Ê: What are the most important ways that Ellevate provides mentorship and why is female mentorship, specifically, so important?
KW: I’d say there are three core ways that Ellevate facilitates mentorship: in person, through our squads and across our platform. As far as in person mentoring goes, it usually revolves around a specific topic like asking for a raise or being a new manager, and it looks like “speed dating” for mentoring. Each person meets with five to seven different mentors and has ten-minute conversations with each one. The quickness forces clarity and offers multiple perspectives. Every day women have questions like these to solve, and sessions like these provide short-term, actionable goals to address now.
Ê: So cool! Tell us about the squads.
KW: The squads are an online community, maybe six to eight people in each squad, and they have 30-minute meetings each week for support and mentorship advice. This has been a really popular and helpful model: life moves fast and we are all so busy with work, school, sports – you name it. Setting aside 30 minutes each week lets women be intentional about their success and the success of others. Eighty percent of the women in squads say they are more confident now than they were before joining, and 78 percent say their squad introduced them to ideas that they didn’t think were possible before.
Ê: Okay, now we want our own squad! How can the overall platform possibly offer more than that?
KW: The Ellevate platform has grown over time, and we’ve learned to simultaneously expand it and make it more responsive. Member profiles used to be pretty typical (where you were from, what you did), but they weren’t telling us enough. We started to look at members’ goals, and really listened when they said I need help getting on a Board, or I can help introduce someone to my industry. Leveraging Ellevate’s connections based on specific member needs and expertise makes the overall network, which is huge, feel very one-to-one.
Ê: Completely amazing. We can’t wait until our girls are old enough to join this network but, until they can, just know how thrilled they are when you include girls their age in events like #MobilizeWomen. To close out our time today, can you tell us why the Summit’s Innovating the Future panel (which features young entrepreneur Ashley Voisin, teen philanthropist Taylor Richardson and Girl Scouts of Greater New York CEO Meridith Maskara) means so much to you?
KW: With all the perspectives and viewpoints we will have on stage, we want to keep moving new ideas forward. We need more disruption and innovation in our conversations, and kids have a way of seeing the world without the limitations that can weigh us down over time. We are really excited about all the different voices that will be in the room on Friday, and keeping them varied (not just older or wiser) is important. Everyone has something to share, and I don’t think women – or girls – can hear that enough.
Neither do we. If you haven’t yet registered for #MobilizeWomen, get your last-minute ticket here. If you can’t make it to NYC but want to follow the live stream, you can sign up right here. And to all the girls watching but too young to attend, stay tuned. Events like these that bring accomplished women together to discuss the big issues of the day can change your life. Because, like Kristy said, “There’s no right age to find a mentor…” and “[e]veryone has something to share.”