Everyday Icon: The Mentor

Need a little inspiration from a woman who's focused lifting others up as she reaches for her goals? Look no further than Tiffant Dufu.

Image Credit: April Patrick

“Work-life balance” is every working girl’s favorite buzzword these days. And with good cause: there are more women in the workforce now than ever before. Naturally, it's the perfect opportunity to "lift as we climb"; to pave the way for the women around us while we're chasing our own dreams. No woman does this better than Tiffany Dufu, Chief Leadership Officer of Levo League (a community dedicated to career success for everyone) and most recently, launch team member of Lean In at the 2014 MAKERS Conference. Today, she shares her tips for lifting, climbing and everything between:

What lessons and takeaways from the White House Project have you implemented in the Levo League?

The most important lesson I learned is that if you want to make any real change in the world, you have to meet people where they are. There are a lot of lessons for learning to leverage where people are at and embrace popular culture in order capture the imagination of women. The other important piece is that women already have everything they need to be successful. We’re not here to do the work for anyone or give women something they don’t already have. We’re here to help them create the circumstances under which their own leadership can thrive.

What are some essay easy ways every woman can pave the way for the generation of girls?

Number one is, are you all the things that you care about and are advocating for? Number two, spending time with other women or girls. No matter where you are, there is always someone coming up behind you. I always ask people, “Who are you actively mentoring right now? Who is looking up to you?” The third thing is referring women. I get lots of requests everyday to speak. Sometimes I say yes, but the majority of the time there is a conflict. You should never ever decline without offering another woman. If I can’t do something, I always say, “BUT, I know this really amazing woman and I’m going to put you in contact with her.”

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve listened to and that you’ve decided to ignore?

One of the best pieces of advice came from a mentor who said to me, “Tiffany, you spend far too much time worried about options you don’t even have. You should be spending more of your time trying to manifest those options for yourself.”

The biggest piece I didn’t take was someone told me not to get married. I got married really young and went around to a bunch of my sages to ask their advice and one of them said “Don’t do it.” And for good reason, I was so young, but I ended up marrying my husband anyway!

Which factors of your upbringing contributed to your success?

My mom got pregnant with me when she was 19 years old and she really didn’t want to raise her family in Watts, California. She convinced my dad to join the military so I was born on an army base in Tacoma, Washington. Because my parents weren’t in their normal environment, they had to raise us on the premise that, “If you want something you’ve never had before, you need to do something you’ve never done before.”

p.s. You don't have to be in the traditional workforce to change your world. Read our interview with singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb.