In 2011 and early 2012 I was researching and writing a book about the first generation of Internet Natives, born 1991 to 1995 and mostly in college. I dubbed them the Hooked Up Generation and I realized early in the process that they represent the leading edge of a societal metamorphosis from a male-dominant to a female- led culture. As a media ecologist who studies and reports on the impact of media technology on business, society and culture, it was essential that I effectively communicate this shift to my community of media, advertising and marketing professionals. But I wanted to do more than simply communicate it.
I understood that 60% of college graduates for the next decade will be female, and also recognized they would be a culturally diverse cohort. But was our community – or any professional community – ready for them. Would they understand them? Would they realize that the qualities reflected by this generation make them radically different in many ways from all prior generations – even those just a couple years older? Would they realize that this first generation of Internet Natives is a bridge between the past and the future, and that their experiences would influence all future generations?
How, I asked myself, could I support this generation? How could I help assure that the media, marketing, advertising and entertainment communities would offer a welcoming environment to young college grads as they explored their career potential, considered job opportunities and progressed through the early stages of their careers? I also knew that many of my colleagues confuse this emerging generation with the Millennial “ME” generation and while they are technically considered part of the Millennial cohort, they have been raised with a very different perspective. They’re grown up with economic collapse and an understanding of how difficult it will be for them to achieve the economic success of their parents. They’ve experienced a lifetime of social upheaval, war on terror, and technological acceleration. And the Internet has fostered a true belief in equality of all types – and especially gender equality. Both qualitatively and quantitatively, I understood that young women entering the workforce would be dominant, dynamic, forceful, skilled and eminently qualified to lead.
What could I, as a 60+ year-old male do -- not only ease their path, but to assure that industry professionals welcomed them as peers, open and receptive to their unique qualities? How could I change the very concept of mentorship to one of equality – and facilitate a new approach I called dual mentoring, rather than the typical senior-to-junior approach? Should I Lean In and engage in this future I envisioned? Or Lean Back passively as the culture transformed?
I Leaned In and invited 14 women to dinner – seven senior colleagues in the media and advertising business and seven in the early stages of their careers. I shared my ideas. Not only did they embrace them but together we forged five principles around which they created the Women in Media Mentoring Initiative. Just two years later, WIMMI is 3,000 women strong with chapters formed or forming in eight cities. In a career spanning four decades, I have never been so emotionally rewarded for my efforts nor had the value of an idea so quickly confirmed. At our most recent event in New York City with more than 500 women attending, one-third were ethnically diverse and the many younger women were interacting actively as equals with corporate “C” suite and senior company executives. Thirty women at all stages of their careers now serve on the organizing committee.
WIMMI is making a difference in the lives and careers of our members – enabling them to connect across generations and together merge the past, the present and the future into their planning and actions. The constant refrain I’ve heard, especially from the most senior executives, is that their young colleagues are becoming their most important mentors, and that the concept of dual mentoring is among the most important trends for the future of lifestyle and career growth. Positively embracing and empowering future generations of female leaders is our community’s most important priority.
Women in Media Mentoring Initiative
WIMMI offers an inclusive and supportive environment to women at all stages of their careers for professional development, lifestyle management and the formation of lasting friendships.
1. More than 60% of college graduates over the next decade will be female, increasing the importance and power of women in society, business and culture. WIMMI offers a welcoming environment for women joining the media, marketing and entertainment community.
2. Dual mentoring is at WIMMI’s core, recognizing that young women entering the workforce are the first generations to have grown up with the Internet and social media, and have as much or more to teach as to learn.
3. WIMMI recognizes diversity as a priority for the future health of society and supports the development of resources to advance diversity in media, marketing and entertainment.
4. Women face unique work/life challenges and WIMMI offers a social environment to foster connections, communications and mutual support.
5. WIMMI is a voluntary organization open to all women in media, marketing, entertainment and related fields without dues, fees or membership requirements.