Femme It Forward, a female-led music and entertainment company, announced today the launch of Next Gem Femme, a new mentorship program aiming to accelerate career opportunities and trajectory for young women of color.
Developed as part of Femme it Forward’s ongoing mission to improve equity in their industries and workplaces, Next Gem Femme has over 100 leading industry executives signed on as mentors from leading entertainment companies including Amazon Music, Apple Music, iHeart Media, Atlantic Records, CAA, Capitol Music Group, Maverick Management, Columbia Records, Endeavor, ICM Partners, Interscope Geffen A&M, Live Nation, Pandora, SoundCloud, Spotify, TikTok, Viacom Digital Studios, Revolt Media, Essence, WME, YouTube, and more.
“Nothing exists like this,”says Heather Lowery, founder and chief executive of Femme It Forward, which began as a female-led event series in 2019 before expanding to a joint venture with Live Nation. Femme it Forward was launched to spotlight the entertainment industry’s most creative and accomplished female visionaries, both on-stage and behind the scenes.
“We’re giving these young students direct access to the music industry,” Lowery says. “We normally get to see women on panels or we follow them on social media and follow their careers. We get advice that way, but I’ve never had an experience with mentors coming up in the music business. Many other women I spoke with had the same experience — often if there was a mentor, it was a male mentor.”
The program is focused on long-term development, explains Lowery, who is being honored in Billboard’s latest Women in Music series, with each mentorship beginning with a one-year partnership and the opportunity to build moving forward. The goal of the program is to develop an experience that goes beyond the traditional internship and balances exposure to real-time projects and work scenarios with ongoing professional coaching, résumé-building, industry insights, networking opportunities and relationship building.
“I wanted to provide my colleagues with their programs that they can easily plug into so that we can all be the mentors that we never had and give young women the tools and access and opportunities that we never had,” she tells Billboard. “It is the young woman who will be at the center of Next Gem Femme. A lot of times it feels like that gets forgotten, but I think we need this, especially now, more than ever.”
The inaugural program will include 200 female mentees of color pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees or currently serving in entry-level positions, although individuals affiliated with a university are also encouraged to apply. Lowery, a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, is planning to award at least 100 of the 200 spots to students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU). Student participants will also be able to apply for scholarships, book and food stipends, and other financial aid.
“As an HBCU student, I know firsthand the impact that HBCU students have across all industries,” Lowery tells Billboard, adding that she’s preparing a number of initiatives for student outreach and awareness.
The application process for mentees will begin in May, in time for the program’s August 2021 launch. For more information on how to apply please visit femmeitforward.com.