We are excited to present a new interview series, PAY IT FORWARD, in partnership with the Lily. The Lily, published by The Washington Post, elevates issues critical to women by fostering important conversations and empowering stories. We spoke with women who we collectively admire to hear what mentorship means to them, the advice that has been most meaningful, and the importance of uplifting the women around you.
Next up in our series is Jamilah Lemieux, VP of News & Men’s Programming at iOne Digital (CASSIUSlife.com/NewsOne.com). Jamilah is always sounding off on social and giving an excellent read of what is going on in the world, with her well-informed perspective on culture and feminism. We spoke with Jamilah about when mentorship looks like to her and where she has found support in her career and personal life.
Do you have a female mentor or leader you respect? Who is she?
My boss, Kierna Mayo, whom I’ve known nearly nine years—six of which I’ve worked for her—is my primary source of mentorship. I might not have her if Michaela Angela Davis had not taken me under her wing years ago, both facilitating our connection and guiding some of the decisions that put me in the position to work in my field in the first place.
What qualities make a good mentor or leader?
A good mentor is able to provide tangible support, via connections, advice, etc, that is grounded in foundational knowledge of whatever connects her to her mentee: a shared career field, parenting, spirituality and/or a number of topics and issues. She may make your problems her own on occasion, but will typically serve as a compass, not a life-preserver or rescue ship. Her investment in you should make you a better person/professional/parent/partner even when she isn’t around to guide your steps.
Mentors come in all different forms, and are not always people who we expect. What is your experience with this?
I didn’t readily assume that someone who hired me would end up playing such a role, especially in other aspects of my life outside the job. Alas, I’ve been really fortunate to have someone who can keep me accountable as an employee and support me in so many meaningful ways.
What is something a woman mentor or leader did for you, that you now try and do for other women?
The women in my life who I consider mentors have consistently been honest with me about the realities of my field, raising children, dating and other critical parts of our shared experiences and I always try to deliver the same to younger women, and other folks as well.
How did that experience (of what your mentor did for you) change your career/life?
Michaela recognized that I was talented, yet unrefined in certain ways, and that I would thrive if given the proper opportunity. She helped me to prepare for the work I wanted to do and connected me to a number of people who would allow me to get that shot—Kierna would be one of them.
What’s one piece of advice that you struggle to put into practice (even though you know you should)
I routinely preach self-care and balance, and I routinely fail at both.
Where and when do you do your best work?
I tend to work best in quiet environments by myself with limited interruptions.
Have you had a recent “Aha!” moment or breakthrough?
I’ve come to truly understand the importance of having male mentors. Without reducing the human experience to two narrow gender binaries, there is something to the ways in which cis-het and queer men operate in their own interest that I think women should tap into as best they can. They so often prioritize their needs, advocate for themselves and spend less time agonizing over minor details, all things that I personally struggle with. It’s not about ‘thinking like a man and acting like a lady,’ but tapping into the masculine ability to remind yourself that you matter.
What is once piece of advice that someone can put into action today?
For parents, I’d say think about people in relation to what they would do for your children if (God forbid) something happened to you and treat their requests for favors accordingly. For anyone, a continual series of cost-benefit analysis should guide your decision making processes. Is this worth lost sleep? Lost time with loved ones? Will it help me advance in some way?
What is one thing you want women to keep in mind as they go through life?
Don’t allow people to make you feel that folks wanting your energy or time is some sort of compliment or affirmation and ask, 'What do I get for pouring into these other people? Who is pouring into ME?’