Detroit Regional Chamber > International Women’s Day > How to Embrace Equity through Mentorship and Self-Assurance

How to Embrace Equity through Mentorship and Self-Assurance

March 6, 2023

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s fifth annual International Women’s Day Luncheon at The Henry Ford’s Lovett Hall brought together the following women to share strategies to build better workforces through equitable mindsets:

  • Deeana Ahmed, Vice President, Strategy, Policy, and Sustainability, Our Next Energy
  • Shelly Rood, Creator, Others Over Self
  • Danielle Russell, Managing Director, Google; Site Lead, Google Detroit
  • Donele Wilkins, Chief Executive Officer, Green Door Initiative

After a series of uplifting keynotes, the speakers sat down with Christy McDonald of WDIV-TV 4 NBC to discuss how to empower women and create more prosperous workplaces and people.

Believe in Yourself, Lift Others Up

Confidence is a no-brainer when it comes to succeeding in business and other areas of life. But for those needing help knowing where to start, the group suggested embracing your expertise and practicing your message beforehand.

“Write a script and practice over and over again. If it doesn’t sound right, fix it, change it,” said Rood. “If you want to take the stage, then you’re going to have to figure out how to craft the message that your audience is actually going to listen to.”

Further, Rood reminded the audience that their voices are already powerful and bring attention to your female teammates’ accomplishments your female teammates are doing if you are too timid to self-promote.

“If we are not going to be able to celebrate ourselves and our own personal accomplishments for reasons of being humble, which is great, then perhaps, we could be a little bit better at celebrating each other,” she added.

Shoot Your Shot with Mentors; Be Open-Minded to Meeting and Challenging Mentees

Many of the panelists discussed the positive impact that mentorship had on their careers and how it is among the keys to better equity. Though it may be intimidating to reach out to someone you admire, the group encouraged the audience to be brave and ask a potential mentor out for coffee to learn more about them.

“[Take] it further than just believing in yourself; [find] someone who is doing what you want to do,” said Ahmed. “Find the bravery to reach out to somebody that you don’t know who she is. Send her an email. Call her, go to her office, [and say] I love what you’re doing…please teach me.”

Conversely, the panel agreed that potential mentors, especially men, should be more open-minded to meeting mentees and thoughtfully challenge them, as Wilkins’ mentor did early on in her career.

“I really wanted to learn how to write grants and proposals. I never had the opportunity to do that. [A] day or so later, she handed me this proposal and said, ‘write it,’” said Wilkins. “And I did, and it got funded. She saw it when I didn’t see it in me.”

Honor Everyone’s Well-Being Journeys

Another critical duty that women should honor is their well-being. It can be the literal difference between life and death, like for Wilkins, a pulmonary embolism survivor who fully believes it is never too late to build better well-being but encourages getting into the habit now.

“Make your self-care [and] you a priority, whatever that is. It is something that’s real. So, I say start now. You deserve it,” said Wilkins.

All identities should encourage themselves and others to build better well-being strategies. But remember, well-being is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking quiet strolls around your neighborhood like it is for Russell.

“I find my peace in exercise … really just by putting on my tennis shoes, because when my kids were young, that was our form of exercise and finding that peace of mind,” Russell said. “Whatever it is for you to find that peace of mind, to give you the space to reflect, try and find [that] balance.”


Watch the full program below.