Oladotun Idowu ’14 founded Sisters in Media to connect women of color in media industries and help them find support and mentorship.
When Oladotun Idowu ’14 started her first job after graduating from the public relations program at the Newhouse School, she felt a bit out of place. She realized she was prepared for her job, but not for the culture shock.
“It’s crazy how small microaggressions are and how they may have an effect on you,” Idowu says. “It’s also crazy how you [could be] disconnected from people because of your taste in things.” She gives an example: “When I graduated, I did not know what SoulCycle was.”
Idowu, who is Nigerian, knew she was not the first to experience this cultural divide between her white coworkers and herself. She knew how powerful mentorship and friendships within a corporate environment were, and she wanted to make those connections with women who would understand her experience. When she looked around, however, she didn’t see any women of color to connect with.
“If I knew someone in this industry, or if my mom were the VP, I would have a better experience trying to [understand social] rules. But because [that’s not the case], I have to work twice as hard,” Idowu says. “That’s where Sisters in Media comes in. It’s there to help you get networking relationships, mentor-mentee relationships.”
Idowu launched Sisters in Media in 2016 to help women of color get connected with recruiters and hiring managers via events like panel discussions and virtual conferences.
“It’s there for women to feel this inclusion and [to] feel a part of a community that really cares about them,” she says.
Running Sisters in Media while working full-time can be tiring, but Idowu says it’s worth it. While in Houston working on an event for Twitter, Idowu stepped outside to get some air and found a message from a woman who got a job at Disney because of connections made at a Sisters in Media event.
“[This] young woman reached out to me to say, ‘Thank you for putting events like these on because it really inspires me and it changed my life,’” Idowu says. “I just started crying.”
Sometimes, she says, doubt creeps in.
“I do this work, but [I wonder], is this even helping anybody? Why am I adding more stress to myself?” Idowu says. “But that moment is 100% worth it, because I remember being a recent college graduate and being like, ‘How the heck am I going to get a job?’”
To people of color feeling left behind in the classroom or in the industry, Idowu says imposter syndrome, a general feeling of inadequacy, is real, but you have to push past it.
“Go there and perform at your best,” she says. “The truth of the matter is we are already a little bit behind, for the fact that we are minorities, and we don’t have the same privileges as our white counterparts. If you allow imposter syndrome to hinder your growth in your career development, it would kill you. Do your best to ignore those things.”
For those interested in attending a Sisters in Media event, Idowu recommends following the organization on Instagram or signing up for email updates via the website.
Adrianne Morales ’21 is an alumna of the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.