What Mentorship Truly Means—according to these five iconic women

The conversation around female mentorship— especially for black women has become increasingly frequent in the media in recent times. One might say it’s because more women, from different fields, are speaking up on the relatively hard undertaking of finding a mentor who looks like them and has gone through similar experiences. 

Fortunately, this mentorship conversation is taking a much-appreciated about-turn with the younger generation of female professionals; there is a noticeable increase in the availability of black female mentors in the corporate space due to the increase in diversity and inclusion in the space.

In appreciation of this growth, we want to highlight some global icons and mentors for black women everywhere, and hear from them the exceptional impact of mentorship.


1. Maya Angelou

According to Maya Angelou, best-selling author and poet…

“In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care.  You must care.  You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho, you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup of chemistry, or of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with. 

So if you know how to change a tire and that’s all, that’s good. But teach them by showing, by caring that they know these things. Then that will be of use some day. And it may never be actually called out. I don’t think I’ll be called out to change a tire. But I know fundamentally how to change a tire, and if I physically can’t do it, I may be able to attract some young person, and tell him how to take the lugs off…See? So a mentor helps the person to interpret the world.”


2. Michelle Obama

Attorney, Author and former First Lady, Michelle Obama hopped on her podcast with her mentor, Valerie Jarrett and shared…

“People think mentors are famous people, people with titles, and, you know, achievements, people that they see out in the world. But, we are all role models.” Yes, that means even you. Chances are, there’s someone out there looking up to you, seeing you lead a group project, or run for class president, wanting to emulate that behavior and learn from your experiences.

The one thing I don’t like is the people who have a platform who say, “I’m not a role model,” And it’s like, well, you have a choice, then don’t be out there, because if you are being seen in any way shape or form, there is somebody looking up to you, and I want young people to realize that mentorship starts early. And it starts right in your own backyard.”


3. Whoopi Goldberg 

American actor and stand-up comic is a mentor to several entertainment personalities including Angie Le Mar, Marlee Matlin, all of whom have had remarkable words of appreciation for her. 

On mentorship, Whoopi says “We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.”

4. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey, host and media mogul has shared the following on mentorship,

“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself. A mentor is someone who allows you to know that no matter how dark the night, in the morning joy will come. A mentor is someone who allows you to see the higher part of yourself when sometimes it becomes hidden to your own view.

I think mentors are important and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship. Nobody makes it alone. Nobody has made it alone. And we are all mentors to people even when we don’t know it.

I recognize that I serve as a mentor to many women. Because anybody who makes it, anybody who does achieve any level of success, that says to the rest of the world, “This is possible.” That, to me, is the whole point of celebridom, that’s the whole point of fame, that’s the whole point of notoriety; being able to take what fame you’ve been given, what notoriety, take what accomplishments, and use that in such a way that people say, “This is possible.”


5. Dambisa Moyo

The Zambia-born global economist and member of the UK House of Lords shared this keye advice concerning mentorship, 

“My one big message is, you never know who’s going to be able to advise you and be a great mentor. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes: it could be a man, a woman, an African, a Canadian, someone working in fashion or athletics. You just have to be open-minded.”

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