Contours

voices of women in law // voix des femmes en droit

My Journey of Mentorship

By Romita Sur

 

We are here for you

Come ask us whatever questions you need

We are here to support you

Said the super enthusiastic white dude in my first year class introduction

Little did I know that “support” isn’t for all students

Very rarely do spaces meant for mentorship address sexual violence or race or the intersections between them

 

If something happens in class or placement, reach out to us

We will support your statement

Our mentors helped us, we want to pay that forward

There is racial profiling in the social work job market

Are you sure?

Well actually, when they said this, did they mean….

Very rarely do spaces meant for mentorship address how micro aggressions are perpetuated

 

“Create a space for yourself” says the social worker from the Immigrant Women’s Centre

Her talk is toward the very end of the conference with dwindling audience numbers

“Create a space for yourself”

Sometimes we have to be the first: start things, listen

The emotional labour is tolling but this must be done

“Why do we need a group for students of colour”

“You people are never happy with anything”

Words spoken by the president of the association

Still the group is created

With no poc professors, we are assigned a Jewish professor

She listens, suggests, guides

Very rarely do spaces meant for mentorship get individuals who will listen and guide rather than dictate and judge

 

Fast forward two years and law school happens

I go to my first speed meet

I am one of the two racialized students in the space and there are no poc professionals

I bring this up with the President of the group

“Well…it’s not really that important, it would be the same, plus, we didn’t find any”

I ask myself how do you find mentors when there are no mentors who look like you…

 

A year passes and the few women of colour in the school create a space for themselves

I am reminded of the social worker who first told me “Create a space for yourself”

So we go about creating our own mentorship program

A member brings up “how do we find mentors who are also feminists and have an intersectional lens”

I ask myself what does mentorship mean? How does feminism and intersectionality get addressed in this?

 

I get an opportunity to shadow an MP in parliament

I am wary as politics is still a white-male dominated space

I get paired with an MP from the NDP who works in national security and Indigenous issues

Surprised when she hears with what I am involved in

She says “we need a dose of that in politics”

On our walks to buildings in between meetings, she brings up anti-oppression training, race and gender sensitivity, and why she wants to work on these issues

She mentions that she does this program because politics needs more women and if she can mentor others, she must try her best

I ask myself how do you find mentors who want to mentor and understand this gap                   

 

I get an email from the Dean

He tells me about a woman who works on diversity issues and wants to talk to me

I wonder what this means

She calls and after a few moments she immediately starts to talk about mentorship

I am genuinely shocked

We share stories of being poc in a white dominated faculty

She gives me relevant advice in having a balance in applying for jobs, in terms of its requirements and your values

I get a glimpse of what true intersectional feminist mentorship looks like

I ask myself why there are so few of these amazing women

 

I am still searching for the answer

What is mentorship in intersectional feminism?

How do you be a mentor to future students?

What kind of mentor would I have wanted?

 

I would like to dedicate this poem to students still searching for mentors to connect with and to a project close to my heart. Mentorship needs to include diverse voices as there are multitudes of people within the legal profession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contours is made possible by funding from the McGill Law Students’ Association / L’Association des étudiant-e-s en droit de McGill. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without permission from the authors.

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