Most working women would love to have a mentor — a role model; someone who they can turn to for inspiration, motivation, and even advice in their professional domain. Easier said than done, right? I mean for someone to be our mentor, they have to be pretty awesome.

"Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be."  according to Eric Parsloe of The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring.

An article in Forbes magazine says “mentors can help you set and achieve career goals, make smart business decisions, overcome workplace challenges, learn new skills, or simply offer an outside perspective when you’re facing frustrations at work. The benefits are truly endless.”

What are the criteria for a mentor?  The individual must be someone you can learn from—age truly doesn’t matter.

When you look for a mentor, you usually look for someone whose characteristics you’d like to emulate at work; someone who has achieved success in their career, and who will have nuggets of wisdom to pass on to you; someone whose personality is not too different from yours, and whom you trust with confidential information regarding your career.

Your mentor should ideally not know your boss very well. It should be someone outside of your reporting hierarchy; Ideally, someone who has been in your role, but in a different organization; The focus should be on the relationship and people involved— i.e the mentor and the mentee.

At the outset, the mentee must be clear what she hopes to learn from the mentor and how to go about it. Would you want to set aside some time to discuss your career or professional development with your mentor? How frequently?

What do mentors get out of this? Aside from the fact that they would like to see you succeed, it’s a huge ego boost to them to be able to pass on their wisdom and bask in the afterglow of your success. So here’s to professional networking! Good luck finding a mentor.

S.L.Aishwariya Laxmi

Nowadays, body image is such a hot topic. There are reams of newsprint and several terabytes of digital data devoted to achieving and maintaining the “perfect” body. Women who weigh 53 kilos are miserable ‘coz they want to weigh 50.

In my teens, I weighed 52 kilos and was 5 ft. 7 inches. If you thought people always complimented me for my size zero figure, you’re dead wrong. I received NOT ONE compliment. And this was certainly not because I was mean to people. But in my twenties, I put on a little weight. Friends started referring to me as “pleasantly plump.” And then I reached obesity. Now, I’m working on regaining my lost figure, but the point I’m trying to make is – we often look to our friends and peer group for admiration and approbation.

We tend to see ourselves through their eyes, especially when we are at an awkward adolescent age. If we happen to surround ourselves with critics at that time, our self-image gets severely damaged. Only children tend to rely more on their friends’ opinions and views than children with siblings. As an only child, I’ve given way too much importance to what friends think, or so says my dad.

What I’ve learned however, is that people can really be mean and their opinions can be completely subjective. So the next time you want an honest opinion on your looks, look no further than the mirror. Since YOU have the basic pre-requisite needed for an honest evaluation of your looks – a pair of eyes and a mirror – please don’t turn to others for their “feedback”, which often counts for squat.

But while I say this, let me warn you of another danger that we women face—the danger of being too harsh on ourselves. While most of us are really generous with compliments to friends, we look at ourselves quite critically. As long as you promise to be as kind to yourself as you are to your friends, you’re on the right track.

So my final words on the topic of body image are these: you know how good you can look. So try to be the best version of you, rather than compare yourself with friends, models, actresses, and Barbie, only to find yourself falling short. Stay beautiful—Inside and out!

- S.L.Aishwariya Laxmi

We have to raise our daughters strong. We give our twenty first century daughters the best education possible. We encourage them to find empowerment in being financially independent. But somewhere during those first twenty years of their lives, we also need to teach them to be psychologically tough and physically strong.

When i was a teenager, my father often gave me this bit of advice - if you ever encounter an eve-teaser, show him your footwear. On the contrary, my mom advised me to ignore or avoid them. I found my father's advice comforting and it even gave me a sense of confidence; it made me feel strong, and encouraged me to put up a fight when circumstances demanded. I don’t think my mom’s words had the same impact on me.

Many of us have been raised by our moms in this stereotypical way. So, what is it that we as the 21st century moms are communicating to our daughters? Are we unwittingly teaching them to lay low in face of trouble?

Over the last few years, I have been observing parents who have raised assertive and strong daughters, and here are three valuable lessons I have learnt from them.

> Encourage daughters to face and resolve small challenges by themselves. Whether it is in the classroom or the playground, we should encourage them to build their own defenses whenever possible. If we want our daughters to be bold and conquer the world, we need to teach them to never be the damsels in distress waiting to be saved. Of course, our parental instinct often drives us to swoop down and kiss away the pain. In those moments, we should rather help them to be resilient, while assuring them that we are there to guide them with the right advice at the right time. 

> Motivate them to try unconventional activities. If your daughter wants to take her daddy's bike apart, encourage her to do it just like you would tell your son. This will show her that sexism does not exist in your family, and so, it should not exist outside the home too. It will also teach her that it is ok to be different, or to take an opposite stand against popular views. 

> Do not focus too much on their physical appearance. Teaching daughters the importance of grooming and cleanliness is vital, but talking too much about how pretty they look will send a message that their looks matter more. Instead appreciate and reward the tiniest of their accomplishments; help them to discover their skills and talents. This will drill into their minds that their personality and abilities matter more than their appearance.

Today, the world needs girls who are adventurous, tough, assertive, and self-reliant. Above all, the world needs girls who can stand up for themselves. And as mothers, we need to teach our daughters to be exactly that.

- Annie Mariya Sam

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So it takes all sorts to make a world, right? And women are as diverse as they come. Even with youth icons, on one end of the spectrum you have the ‘bad girls’ like Miley Cyrus in her new ‘Wrecking Ball’ avatar (as opposed to her earlier Hannah Montana Disney girl image) and on the other end, there’s Malala Yousafsai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban, survived the ordeal, and went on to become a crusader for women’s education. Malala has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize and has announced that she would like to become the next Prime Minister of Pakistan.

What is it that determines the road we take? In a nutshell, it’s our early childhood experiences, our families, the schools and colleges we attend, our friends, our exposure to the world, and our reactions to stimuli. Sometimes, it can be quite confusing for a young girl trying to make sense of the world. Add to it the complexities of a world gone digital, and there are no guarantees on how things could turn out.

The key is to stay positive and learn from every experience we go through; find out early on what we are comfortable with, how far we would go for friendship or for love, identify what our values are, and then stick by them. As Katy Perry croons in ‘Roar’ :

“I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.

You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake your ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, the fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR

This outlines the journey that most young girls take – where they go from “zero” to their own “hero”. What has been your journey as a woman? Would you like to share your experiences here?

S.L.Aishwariya Laxmi

2 Comments

I am strongly of the belief that all women need to be educated and employable. The belief that we can stand on our own two feet financially can work wonders for our morale. So often we come across women who stay in marriages that are clearly not working for them. More often than not, these are women who do not have the means (education) to find gainful employment. So they sadly trade their self-esteem and precious lives for the monetary security that their marriage offers.

This outdated concept that men are the breadwinners while the women stay at home and look after cooking and cleaning has to be relegated to where it belongs: the stone age. Admittedly, a large section of men and women choose these roles and have no problem conforming to these stereotypes.

But when a girl child is brought into the world, let’s not inculcate this belief in her that the sole purpose of her life is to get married and have children. While that will probably be something that will take place in her life, let’s encourage her to develop her talents. Find out what subjects she likes in school and encourage her to pursue her passion— even if her passion isn’t baking or some other ‘girly’ pursuit. Bring up your boys to be responsible and treat girls with love and respect.

Just as charity begins at home, the foundation of a child’s life is laid at home. Give your child the tools to build a better life: good education, sound values, and the ability to discern right from wrong. And you will simultaneously help build a better world.

S.L.Aishwariya Laxmi

I recently crossed a milestone that most women dread. The milestone with the number 3* [keep guessing]. The number that tells you that you now belong to a generation that's gone by. I know what you're thinking., people magazine stating 40 to be the new 30, 50 to be the new 25.. then why fret. With so many views on growing older, I am left blank, not knowing how to react when I am observing conflicts between the mind and the body. I am used to conflicts between the heart and the mind...but mind and body? That's something new...

As I see the lovehandles around my waist beginning to gain momentum and tease me with 'catch me if you can' I begin planning my strict exercise regimen and the healthy diet that I need to follow. I've been thinking about joining the gym that has recently opened at the end of the street. What time do I go? And I continue to think.....

Coming back to the magic number, Am I supposed to now act differently now?! My favorite milestone has been the magic number of 25...Age where I enjoyed working, a job that took me places, meeting interesting people, not to mention the financial independence that helped me invest in shoes that my dad thought was sheer indulgence beyond comprehension.Heart on my sleeve, I felt the endless possibilities, options and choices that were out there waiting for me.

Few years hence,I still enjoy my job that has introduced me to new people and new cultures, I still indulge in shoes that are beyond comprehension of many, I occasionally wear my heart on my sleeve and still believe that there are so many possibilities out there in the world.
So have I really grown up in all these years? I have heard a lot of folks tell one another to grow up - a comment provoked either by a lame joke or forgetting manners or etiquette or an act of immaturity. I have heard a lot of people say that but haven't really met of a lot people who actually have done it...!

Does age really define one to be grown up?

I have met quite a few people of different seniority, positions, professions etc.
I've heard that it's possible to grow up - I've just never met anyone who's actually done it all the way,. Without parents to defy, we break the rules we make for ourselves. We throw tantrums when things don't go our way, we share our thoughts with our friends, we look for comfort where we can find it, and we hope - against all logic, against all experience. Like children, we never give up hope... that even without the growing up we come across as grown ups :)

- Sukanya Saleem