But beyond the universal need for mentorship at every level is the pressing need for mentorship of diverse and underrepresented talent in the industry. A recent McKinsey & Co. study found that 41% of employees who have recently quit their jobs cite lack of career development or advancement opportunities as the reason for their decision. And research shows that this problem is particularly prevalent for employees from underrepresented backgrounds who often systemically lack the resources or recognition that would allow them to grow personally and professionally.
Mischief’s Guimaraes credited her mentors for much of her growth when she first immigrated to the United States from Brazil 13 years ago.
“At the time, I knew how to speak English, but not as fluently, and I also [was not] able to express [myself] when [I talked] about having ideas and brainstorming with people,” Guimaraes said. “There felt like a lot of barriers for me.”
It was two creative directors who saw potential in Guimaraes and took her under their wing. They helped her learn the ropes of agency life and build her confidence, championing her every step of the way.
‘You deserve to be here—you’ve earned the right to be here’
Washington faced unique challenges of her own as a woman of color in the industry.
“When I used to walk into a boardroom as a young, African American female, I was constantly challenged. I always had to lead with my credentials,” Washington recalled.
As it does for many professionals from underrepresented backgrounds, this constant battle to prove her worth began to take its toll.
“When I was going through this, it started to affect my mental health,” Washington said. “I started to have crazy anxiety, panic attacks–I thought it was because I had a fear of public speaking. And in turn, [it was] actually just having to face that room.… I didn’t know if I actually deserved and had a right to have a seat at that table.”
When answering her own question as to why she felt that way, Washington even slipped into old habits listing her educational credentials. “Here I go again, giving my résumé,” she said as she caught herself.
Today, Washington makes it her mission to make sure her mentees never experience that same feeling. Her mentor, the late music mogul Andre Harrell, made a point of instilling in her a duty to give back to people once she had found success: to share her journey with them, and to help them on their own journey.
“When I think about my experience and how I approach mentorship now, I focus on building confidence,” said Washington. “You do in fact deserve to be here; you have earned your right to be here.”
You can watch the full panel above. The List also appeared in a second panel in TFQ’s Equality Lounge, on Oct. 18: “Performance on People’s Terms: The New Landscape of Privacy and Marketing.” Introduced by Ad Age’s Dioso and moderated by Amy Brooks, director of partner training and certification at Meta, the panel featured List member Charlyn Okigbo, business lead of emerging ad products at Uber, and Delphine Hernoux, chief data and analytics officer, North America, at Wavemaker.
Generation Next is now accepting applications for the mentee class of 2022 through Friday, Oct. 28. If you meet the criteria for this program, applications can be found here.
Learn more about The List and Generation Next on adagethelist.com, and follow The List on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.