Mentoring Women: Advancing Careers

“Mentors are more important to career success than hard work, more important than talent, more important than intelligence” -Sheila Wellington, President of Catalyst

By: Claire Frisella, Mentee & Jennifer Holmes, Mentor Over the course of my career, I have mentored many and have enjoyed watching my mentees achieve outstanding results, win top honors, be promoted, and accomplish goals they never felt possible. This summer, I have enjoyed mentoring Claire, my Butler University Intern, who has grown personally and professionally.  When she started working with me she didn’t really know what she wanted to do with her career and she didn’t know her passion.  She now realizes that what she enjoys can translate into a corporate career.  As her mentor, it’s been a joy watching her light up when she was working on projects, participating in meetings, building leadership content and training programs and developing our corporate newsletter.  Whatever project she worked on this summer she embraced the challenge and delivered outstanding results.  I will miss her when you goes back to finish her senior year but I know I will always be there for her as a mentor.

What is a Mentor? A mentor advises, listens, and inspires his or her mentee to set and achieve goals.  Many times in the business world, a higher level, more experienced mentor can be the key to advancing your career.  Compared to men, women have fewer opportunities to discover and take advantage of advice from mentors. On top of that, mentoring programs within organizations are often times overlooked and not viewed as an asset to employee development and organizational success. Organizations that take on some form of mentoring program-formal or informal- can more effectively develop and utilize the existing talent of employees. 

What is Formal Mentoring? A very structured and regulated type of mentoring relationship is classified as formal mentoring.  This type of mentoring is often times bound by an agreement or contract and involves organizations assigning mentees to a mentor. Organizations that support the development of formal mentoring programs create links between all tiers of the company. This type of mentoring connects lower level women with high level women in order to motivate them to achieve personal goals and organizational goals.

Why is Informal Mentoring Important? If your organization does not provide a formal mentoring program, there are still ways to find a mentor.  Informal mentoring is a less structured and often times a more natural form of mentoring. Sometimes it is facilitated by the organization and other times it just happens on its own. Because of this, a lot of responsibility is placed on both partners to maintain their relationship. Unlike formal mentoring relationships, this form is more likely to stay intact for longer periods of time, only because it is not bound by a contract of an organization.

Both formal and informal mentoring relationships have disadvantages and advantages and are effective under different circumstances. The bottom line is, however, that organizations need to develop some form of these programs for employees, especially women. Research done by Catalyst found that 69 percent of women with mentors had an upward career move in the next three years, compared to 49 percent of women with no mentor.  The research also showed that women with mentors leveled the playing field.

In one of my favorite books, How Remarkable Women Lead by Joanne Barsh & Susie Cranston, they share data showing that informal relationships are the more powerful career accelerators.

The Power of Women Mentoring Women Women mentoring women is crucial for career advancement. According to a study from Catalyst, 37 percent of current women executives state that having a mentor or sponsor was a critical ingredient of their personal success. Organizations that offer mentoring programs will help women advance. More importantly, however, women need to utilize and learn from these mentoring relationships. Women mentors can offer insight about gender differences, techniques to manage time and work-life balance, and career advice.

The power of mentoring women is to share life experiences that can help others avoid career limiting mistakes.  Women need mentors to help them work through the challenges, to help them improve communication within the workplace, and most importantly to be a sounding board for one another.

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