Mentoring Women: A Win-Win

Published Thursday, March 2, 2023. | Written by Susan Everhart, YMC Consultant.


Op-Ed: Mentoring Women: A Win-Win



“You don’t know what you don’t know.”


If that’s true, then how do we learn what we need to know? Where do we start? A simple answer can be with a mentor. A mentor who’s been there and done that. A mentor who can show the way and lead by example. For women in particular, a mentor can make all the difference in advancing their careers. Women mentoring women isn’t new. Casual mentoring happens all the time as women chat across backyard fences, over coffee, or at school or church events. For generations, knowledge has been shared about housekeeping, raising children, making ends meet, and relationships with husbands and parents.

Casual mentoring will never stop being valuable, but in this time of greatly expanded career opportunities for women, formal mentoring can be the ticket to success. And the beneficiaries are not just women. Research has proven that women in C-suites and in leadership positions lead to better results for the bottom line. So how do we get more women in leadership positions?

Many successful C-level executives have been mentored over the course of their careers. Most C-level executives are men (92% of Fortune 500 CEOs are male). C-level executives often mentor their “mini-me”, an up-and-coming young man. Mentoring is widely accepted as a significant part of leadership development. However, 63% of women say they've never had a formal mentor (Neal, Boatman, & Miller).

So, here’s the challenge: There are fewer women executives available to mentor younger women. Younger women are often not chosen by men to be mentored. Therefore, the system of male- dominated professions perpetuates itself. And, here’s the opportunity: Organizations can adopt formal mentoring programs and encourage a culture that makes mentoring a common practice throughout the company. Women in leadership positions can advertise their availability to mentor and make it easier for a young woman to ask for a mentoring relationship. Women can be on the lookout for a mentor and articulate their learning goals. Undoubtedly, there are multiple, numerous influences affecting a woman’s decision to climb a career ladder in any field. Yes, there are barriers to advancement including racism, sexism, ableism, geography, and on and on. As more women reach out to each other (the benefits to mentoring are mutual), organizations large and small, public and private, will win.


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