Why women need intentional mentorship in the development sector

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A lack of internal networks remains one of the biggest challenges for young women in the aid sector, and women of color have an even harder time accessing these sort of support systems, explained Angela Bruce-Raeburn, associate director for advocacy at the Global Health Advocacy Incubator.

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Despite having several degrees, Bruce-Raeburn doesn’t feel that these were what gave her the trajectory to get to where she is today. She still sees many young women and women of color struggling to break into the sector, despite being well-educated and qualified. Black women, in particular, are constantly having to prove themselves, she said. They often don’t know people within organizations or at management level so submit blind job applications but this is not going to get them the job, she explained.

Bruce-Raeburn’s advice: Develop a network and build relations with internal champions. This is the person, man or woman, inside of your organization who is going “to bat for you” and is going to see the value you can bring to a role, she explained.

“Many women of color and young women don’t have that network and I think that’s where they are going to need the most support to be able to advance,” she added.

It’s important that women are intentional about “looking in the rear view mirror” and helping those coming behind them, Bruce-Raeburn said. She feels that having a stronger internal network could have helped in the early days of her own career and now makes a conscious effort to review resumes when asked and respond to young women seeking her advice.

Look for every opportunity to reach out to other women or women of color and let them know of jobs or opportunities, she urged others in the sector, adding “that’s the way that we’re going to make changes in the field.”

Listen to the third episode in Devex’s six-part audio series, DevProWomen2030, where Bruce-Raeburn talks about why there are still so few women and women of color in leadership in development hubs such as Washington, D.C, and what the sector can do to change this.

Devex, with financial support from our partner 2U, is exploring the skills and education development sector professionals will need for the future. Visit the Focus on: DevPros 2030 page for more.

About the authors

  • Emma smith

    Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a Senior Careers Reporter at Devex, based in Barcelona. She focuses on bringing the latest career and hiring trends, tips, and insights to our global development community. Emma has a background in journalism and, in addition to writing for news publications, has worked with organizations focusing on child rights and women’s rights in sustainable development.
  • Rebecca root%2520%25281%2529

    Rebecca Root

    Rebecca Root is a Reporter and Editorial Associate at Devex producing news stories, video, and podcasts as well as partnership content. She has a background in finance, travel, and global development journalism and has written for a variety of publications while living and working in New York, London, and Barcelona.