The Importance of Mentors who are Black, Indigenous, People of Colour

Mentorship makes a difference. If you look through our blog, you’ll find plenty of reasons why having someone tell you that you are on the right track is a big deal. There is something to be said about connecting with a mentor who has had similar experiences as you, especially for professionals who are Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (or BIPOC). 

interVivos has chosen to highlight many amazing BIPOC volunteer mentors in Edmonton for our Fall 2020 Mentorship Program Launch to help amplify these community voices. 

When we asked one of our former interVivos mentors, Dr. Bonnieca ‘Bonnie’ Islam, about her thoughts on the impact of having more BIPOC individuals in leadership positions, she said that “it would give BIPOC individuals, especially females, more confidence to apply for these positions.” Speaking from her own experience, she said, “I have turned down opportunities in the past due to my lack of confidence in my abilities and questioned ‘why would people listen to a young-looking brown female?’”

Being a BIPOC professional brings its unique challenges in career development. BIPOC individuals are underrepresented in leadership positions. Systemic oppression makes it possible for others to make assumptions about your character, punctuality, or work ethic based on your skin colour. It can be incredibly challenging to navigate these barriers to success without the help of a mentor who understands your experience. 

As a former mentor, Bonnie shared, “I do believe mentors can share their struggles but also their accomplishments. Encourage the protégés that their race or gender should not hold them back. I always like to point out to protégés when I did not think race or gender gave me any disadvantage.” 

A relationship with a mentor who has also struggled with barriers and glass ceilings in their leadership journey is invaluable to a protégé. The insight from the mentor not only shows the protégé that it’s possible to move up, but the mentor can also offer tools to help overcome these challenges. When more BIPOC mentors exist, more BIPOC people will rise to leadership positions. 

Jason Syvixay, one of our Summer 2020 mentors and Fall 2020 Program Launch emcee, says, “Creating space for BIPOC individuals to meet, to gather, to connect, and to share stories may help in creating networks of support and amplify perspectives within an organization or workplace.”

With this program launch, we’re allowing BIPOC mentors with different backgrounds and perspectives to connect and empower the next generation of leaders. This is especially important as it will help increase the diversity of the leadership teams who will become the future decision-makers. 

To find out more about our BIPOC mentorship program, please view the program FAQs on our blog. You can register to be a protégé by visiting: https://intervivosfall2020.eventbrite.ca/