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The power of female mentorship

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We may mark Women’s Day this Tuesday, 9 August, but the reality is that most women still have to fight that much harder to attain success, recognition, and self-belief. Having the support of a female mentor who’s walked a similar path and triumphed is invaluable.

“Too many women feel like victims of their lives, and literally have no one to turn to sometimes,” says Kira Gelman*. “It’s a game changer to have a strong, loving hand offered to you saying, ‘Let me show you how.’”

Gelman is one of many women who have been mentored by physiotherapist, divorce mediator, and author, Stacey Lewis. “Feminine power is something special,” says Lewis. “There’s nothing more beautiful than when women uplift other women.” A single mother, Lewis is dedicated to mentoring divorced women facing similar challenges. “We speak the same language and we understand the complexities of being single mothers and having to worry about making a living too.”

Mentoring five or six women at any given time, Lewis is part of the Shoshana Foundation, which offers support and assistance to single Jewish mothers – widows and divorcees. “When I went through my first divorce – I’ve been through two – I felt so alone as a single mother,” recalls Lewis.

It was through her own process of healing and working on herself that Lewis realised the value of mentorship. “Having mentors as well as outstanding therapists and coaches made me feel like I wasn’t alone on my journey,” she says.

Lewis is also passionate about empowering women to upskill themselves. “It gives me a tremendous sense of self-satisfaction when I can be part of the process of seeing a woman blossom and transform sometimes from being a scared and helpless individual to becoming a powerful force to be reckoned with.”

Gelman says she’s inspired by the fact that Lewis is driven by the tough times she’s been through. “She became a wise and trusted sounding board for ideas that I had to build my career and also an emotional anchor. After I spent time with her, I felt stronger, because she practices what she preaches and her positive, calm energy is contagious.”

For Stacy Closenberg, operations director at Cara Saven Wall Design, working with her boss and mentor, company founder Cara Saven, has helped her discover just how much she has to offer. “Cara saw my strengths even when I doubted them,” says Closenberg. “She capitalised on those strengths, helped me discover hidden talents, and gave me more responsibility to grow them.

“When I started at the company, she taught me how she liked to work but allowed me to find my own path. She mentored me on both fronts. She’s an incredible leader who has genuine care and compassion for her team.”

Saven says that Closenberg inspires her too. “Having a mentee who is open to learning, is strong enough to handle constructive criticism, and puts her all into her work, is a gift,” she says. “Stacy might have learnt a thing or two from me, but I’ve learnt so much more from her in terms of trust and letting go. She’s always looking at ways to grow herself. Yet, the real reward for me is watching her pass her skills onto those she’s managing.”

Reflecting on the value of female mentorship, Saven says that women are perfectly placed to empathise and look out for each another. “We’re in the unique position of truly understanding how much other women carry, how much we juggle, and how little time we often have for ourselves.”

Mentorship can be powerful not only in business, but in families too. Shayla Katzeff says that learning to trust her gut amidst uncertainty is just one of the invaluable lessons her mother, mentor and business partner Liza Katzeff, has taught her. The two joined forces in 2021 to start beauty business Shalicious Nails.

“Not only does my mom guide me and put my needs before her own, she also supports my decisions and always has my back,” says Shayla. “She allows me to learn from my mistakes but uses her experience in business to help us get through them and grow. She’s nurturing and everything she does is with 100% commitment, an attitude that has inspired me to grow our business.”

Liza has also helped Shayla temper her A-type personality and explore situations from multiple perspectives. “I’m very strong minded and confident and like things done there and then,” she says. “My mom has helped me learn sometimes to take a step back, reassess what’s going on around me, and react in a more productive way.”

Liza loves working with her daughter. “I feel blessed as a mother and best friend to have the time and chance to mentor Shayla in the basic skills of working with people on a daily basis as well as addressing aspects of business management together. We bring different strengths together to grow a successful business.”

For Amanda Blankfield-Koseff, a social entrepreneur, guitar teacher, and singer, having the support of internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Cindy Alter has enriched her musical journey. The two initially connected at a songwriter’s night organised by Alter. “She became my mentor and later, my friend,” recalls Blankfield-Koseff. Even though Alter recently moved to Nashville, their relationship continues.

“Cindy inspires me not only because she’s achieved so much in her music career, but also because she’s humble and friendly, unlike many other famous rockstars. She’s encouraged me to continue my music career and helped me with singing techniques and song writing. She’s given me a platform to perform with her at a few shows, providing experience and exposure.”

Alter says she believes such relationships are the natural way of the world. “Watching someone grow and become the best version of themselves is pure joy to me,” she says. “Mentoring is being of service, which is my passion. It inspires me to see Amanda flourishing and thriving in her life.”

* Name has been changed

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