Empowering Human Networks To Create More Relatable Role Models
The biggest predictor of success is our network — our local community of family, friends, and relatives. This network provides us with mentors and role models as their stories become our dreams, and ultimately inspire us to write our own story. — Tweet This
We have the courage to dream beyond the limits of stereotypes and the ability to write our own stories, but every story needs an outline. Search for this outline sometimes requires us to reach beyond our local networks.
1. Expanding Beyond Hyper-Local Networks
Our strongest influences are our Mom and Dad. They are our first role models and, for the lucky ones amongst us, they are there to guide us through most of our lives. They are the nucleus of our hyper local network of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, neighbors and schoolmates.
While this network represents our reach and influence, it also can be a limitation not only for us but also for our parents.
Research suggests that the economic opportunities are more likely to come from contacts outside a tightly knit hyper local networks and this is even more critical when we are looking for inspiration to achieve things that have never been attempted in our immediate network.
2. Schools And Colleges Are An Opportunity To Step Out
Those who are robbed of an opportunity to go to school or college, don’t just miss out on formal knowledge — they miss out on an opportunity to step out of a hyper-local network of family and friends. They miss out on learning from their peers, on differing perspectives and most importantly on mentorship relations that are basis of eventual financial and emotional success.
Data says that most young Indian women are in fact getting an opportunity to participate in the higher education system but 4 in 5 Graduates never enter the work force. If women are learning and participating in school, what is stopping them from achieving their dreams once they graduate?
One major reason is lack of relatable role models or mentors. We need mentors as we make a transitions through various phases in life, which can be going from undergraduate student into the workforce or higher education, switching careers, going back to work after pregnancy, or promotion to CEO.
3. Potential Is How Far You Can Really See
Very often our potential is limited by the paths that our peers and seniors are taking because that is how far we are able to see. We pick up dreams which belong to someone else and try to make them our own. Trends around us, unfortunately, tend to limit our potential. How can we create an environment where we are able to look beyond these trends and follow our original dreams?
4. Women See Themselves As Outsiders
Most of our decisions, from where to travel to whether to have kids, are simply based on our ability to imagine ourselves in a place or a situation. Too often Indian women find it hard to see themselves in professional leadership or anyone more than a temporary participants in a workplace.
For example, a few years ago, in the immediate aftermath of a string of sexual assault cases, all corporate offices in the Delhi region were directed to send their female employees home by 8 pm. My women friends in the region felt that these new restrictions were holding their careers back, compared to their male counterparts, but at the same time, they were not particularly concerned. Such vicious cycle of low expectations leading to an acceptance of less ambitious professional results is systemic and widespread.
5. The Marriage Clock
There is an unmentioned age deadline that has been set by parents and perhaps by girls themselves by which one is supposed to get married. If you have ever run into parents of an unmarried 30 years old, you know how exasperated and inconsolable they are. Indian parents suddenly morph from mentors to matchmakers as soon as a girl hits the age of 20, further complicating an already difficult play field.
It is very easy to assume that the marriage clock doesn’t apply to you, it is too far down the line and you will handle it with your new grownup skills when you get there. I certainly thought so and, unfortunately, too often I meet girls who have suddenly started hearing the clock tick louder than ever.
6. Finding Mentors Is Hard For Young Women And Even Harder In India
I came across many instances where women in their 20s were reluctant to reach out to discuss their career goals with male colleagues. Our social and cultural biases frequently tag these attempts as violation of glass wall that still exists between men and women in a workplace.
Such social biases together with lack of women in workplace makes it even harder for young ambitious women to achieve their dreams. We need innovative social and technological tools to overcome hurdles like these.
7. Big Country, Small Communities
If we are surrounded by so many bright successful individuals, why is it still so hard to find a mentor or a role model? One possible explanation is that we live in very small communities that differentiate themselves along cultural lines.
For example, in New Delhi, it is not very uncommon for a block of 100 houses to be seen as “Bengali” or “Punjabi”. Reach of a young women beyond these local communities is surprisingly limited.
8. “She Did It, So Can I”
What makes a good mentor or a role model? Movie stars don’t make great role models neither does somebody like Indra Gandhi or Mukesh Ambani. They belong to an unrelatable unreachable world and are unlikely to inspire the minds of a young women. In fact research shows that they can have quite an opposite effect. Given their success seems unattainable, their stories can be deflationary to the moral.
The best mentors and role models perhaps come from similar cultural background, communities and highlight a path that appears walkable; eventually inciting a feeling of “She did it, so can I”. — Tweet This
For the path to appear walkable, the mentor also needs to be only a few steps ahead and not so far down the path of success that protege feels that “I missed my chance” or “I am too far behind”. — Tweet This
9. A Nudge Is All That Is Needed
Most women in India are academically accomplished and professionally ambitious. All they need is motivation, a little guidance, and perhaps a nudge in the right direction when faced with difficult decision at important turning points in their lives.
Speaking with potential mentors and mentees, I realized that short 20 minutes conversation with someone relatable can have a huge impact on life outcomes. The mentorship relationships need not be burdensome or stretched out.
We need many mentors. In a fast paced dynamic world, we aspire towards many goals. These goals change as we get older and our careers and families evolve. The definition of mentorship needs to evolve in step with the changing needs.
10. Everybody Is A Mentor And A Mentee
While an entire new generation of young women is looking to find their way through the real world maze, there are thousands of Indian women all over the world who have achieved great success in fields as diverse as medicine, business, law, academia, and the arts. These successful individuals range from recent graduates with great professional starts to CEOs.
They are potential role models and mentor to many who are a few steps behind them and can certainly benefit from interacting with mentors who are a few steps ahead of them.
11. Designing Digital Mentorship Networks
Most of our Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections are people we already know through our hyper-local circles of family and work. LinkedIn provides opportunities to gain new professional connections, but often these connections are impersonal and not focused on mentorship. Even in a world that is more open than ever before, understanding cultural contexts is still critical, and that understanding seems to be missing from current digital social networks.
12. Introducing Connectedreams!
Connectedreams is an online data driven mentorship platform designed to provide Indian women all over the world with the opportunity to speak to, learn from, and be guided by others just like themselves. It is designed to help find connections that are relatable on aspects such as culture, interests and educational background.
Platform offers 3 features:
a. 1-O-1 recommendation based connections: An algorithm recommends potential mentors/mentees based on the similarities in current goals, location, educational, and professional backgrounds. We use cutting edge data analysis to learn your connection preference or, you can explicitly specify the factors driving the recommendations. REQUEST AN INVITATION
b. Connected+: is a feature that enables you to ask for a mentor in a specific field, industry, or business.
c. Groupinars: A series of web based live interactive seminars meant to inspire, introduce new ideas and induce critical thinking. After every Groupinar, we will share the list of attendees. Just like at a conference, you can connect with other participants.
SAVE YOUR SEAT For The Upcoming Groupinar — Design Education Outside Of Design Schools on Jan 10th 2016 at 8:30pm IST
By joining, you will not only open a door for yourself, but also for someone else who could learn from you.