Mentoring Women to Advance Their Careers

While conducting a recent training workshop, two talented young women in their late twenties asked me several great questions about mentoring. How do they choose a mentor? Could their mentor be their boss? How do they find a mentor outside of their company? Those questions and our discussion inspired me to write this blog.

Relationships are an important aspect of any work culture. Cultivating a strong network of leaders within your organization is a critical step for leadership development and career advancement. Mentoring has become a hot topic in companies these days. Women are being more strongly encouraged to find mentors who can help them navigate their careers and personal responsibilities than in years past.

Research by Catalyst, Inc. shows that women feel they consistently need to exceed performance expectations to advance. I would have to agree with that statement based on my experience. However, I have also learned that it is not just about performance. Leadership style and behaviors also determine whether women advance.

Research supports that everyone benefits from meaningful mentoring because:

Both participants gain professional confidence and visibility which increases job performance.

Mentorees gain skills, feedback and knowledge about unwritten rules in preparation for that next step and gained responsibility.

Mentors often feel clarity about life meaning, purpose, professional revitalization and contribution.

Mentoring relationships inspire a professional sense of belonging and value.

Synergistic mentoring relationships improve retention and increase promotional rates of high potential leaders, which translate into enhanced productivity.

Women are challenged to find females mentors inside their organizations. It is their responsibility to seek women leaders within the organization who will guide them. It is also important for them to mentor other women who aspire to grow their careers.

Seeking mentors outside of your organization is also recommended. However, when they asked me how to do that, I realized that it was an excellent mentoring opportunity for me as well!

Recommended research articles:

Women and Men in U.S. Corporate Leadership: Same Workplace, Different Realities?, Catalyst, Inc., 2004

Maximizing Mentoring and Securing Sponsorship, Catalyst, Inc., 2010

A great book to read: How Remarkable Women Lead, by Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston and Geoffrey Lewis

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