When women in power mentor other female professionals, they're sharing the tools they used to overcome the challenges that affect them in the workplace. Woman-to-woman mentoring can combat obstacles at work like gender disparity, the gender wage gap, boy's club culture and sexism. Mentoring allows women to empower each other to change the systems that tell them they deserve less than their male counterparts.
When considering how to go about it, there is no one right way to mentor fellow professionals. Whether you choose to mentor someone in your physical workplace or provide support and guidance virtually to a woman in your field, sharing your expertise can give them a hand up professionally.
Having a professional mentor gives a woman — typically someone at the start or mid-point of her career — the opportunity to develop professionally with the guidance of a dedicated ally. Often, a mentor has followed a similar career trajectory who can offer experience and insight into the mentee's decision-making as her career progresses.
The benefits of mentorship
Mentees benefit from the wisdom of their mentor. According to a Gartner study, mentees are promoted five times more often than workers who haven't been mentored.
Considering that in 2019, the number of women occupying senior management roles in the world peaked at a mere 29%, mentoring would seem like an obvious way for the top third to help others reach their professional goals. The lack of women in senior roles is especially significant in STEM industries, where the gender disparity is much more pronounced.
Although most women consider mentorship a valuable asset in their careers, 63% say they have never had one. A lack of mentorship has many factors, among them, feeling hesitant to ask for help, experiencing gender discrimination in the workplace, and hesitancy on male colleagues attributed to a heightened fear of harassment accusations.
Mentors gain, too
Mentorship has obvious benefits for the mentee, but what's in it for the mentor? Mentorship offers women the opportunity to share their wisdom, get more comfortable in leadership roles, develop their communication skills, and be exposed to fresh perspectives in the workplace. As a mentor, you won't just offer guidance, networking opportunities, and potential solutions to someone else's problems. You will receive feedback on your leadership skills, your ability to brainstorm solutions and have the chance to tackle potentially sensitive workplace issues. All of this prepares you to keep growing in your career.
On a professional level, the benefit of being a leader and a guide to a younger employee will prepare you to thrive in a senior management role. Having that experience on your resume gives you a leg up toward that promotion you're seeking. Personal satisfaction is another benefit. Taking on this collaborative relationship will provide you with added purpose in your professional life. It can be incredibly fulfilling knowing you've helped your mentee succeed through the challenges that arise in their career.
4 ways to become a mentor
Some organizations and programs work to connect established female professionals with fellow women in need of guidance. If you've had the privilege of being mentored and want to pay it forward to other women, here are four ways you can volunteer to become a mentor:
1. Online networking
As the central hub of professional networking, LinkedIn is a channel to many women mentoring organizations. With a quick search, a long list of them will pop up. Take your time to read about them and how you can join. The benefit of social networking is that mentors and mentees are just a click away. Organizations like WOMEN Unlimited, Inc. boast nearly 9,000 followers on LinkedIn and report that 60% of their program participants achieved promotions during the pandemic.
If you function better one-on-one, take advantage of LinkedIn's suggestions for connections. Set aside any shyness, and follow female industry colleagues! They could be the stepping stone you're looking for to a fulfilling mentorship relationship.
2. Alumni associations
An excellent way to give back to female professionals is by joining alumni organizations. Many of these organizations are constantly looking for graduates who have triumphed in their careers to mentor young men and women while building the academic community and school pride. Alumni organizations like Columbia College Women specifically target professionals to mentor female students and have adopted an online mentoring platform. The INSEAD Alumni Mentorship Association Mentoring Program's goal is to match women alumni in middle to senior management positions with male and female mentors experienced in their respective fields. Contact your alma mater or your local college to see what type of program is right for you.
3. Professional organizations
There are countless benefits to joining a professional organization, such as networking, access to professional training and licenses, business development resources, and yes — mentoring. Professional organizations offer regular meetings to connect and form relationships with colleagues in different stages in their careers. You can reach out to your organization's leadership and let them know you're interested in being a mentor to women. Some organizations like the American Nurses Association have an established mentorship program, but if your organization lacks a formal program, feel free to reach out directly to a potential mentee and embark on this journey together.
4. Create a mentorship program at work
If you've researched and still can't find your fit, consider creating a mentorship program at your company. Don't know where to start? Consult your human resources department about the appropriate process for forming a program.
Once they give you the green light, get to work. Establish a straightforward and reflective process that allows you to evaluate each stage of the mentoring program, such as this model created by Pepperdine University professors. Check out a synthesized version of its steps below:
- Identify objectives: Begin by questioning if you need a mentoring program, who would benefit, and any potential obstacles. Establish these ideas clearly and set goals.
- Consider your resources: You've got the plan, but now you need to convince people to join. Determine the number of members that are willing to join and any physical or time constraints that could arise. If your plan starts getting too tricky, ponder other mentoring models such as e-mentoring, group mentoring, or micro mentoring.
- Design the program: Get to work on creating the parameters of the mentoring program. A couple of questions you should ask yourself should be: How will participants be selected? How will mentors be matched to mentees? What will you do if problems occur?
- Create an evaluation system: Now it's time to evaluate your successes or failings. Create a survey document and decide who will evaluate the program, what specific areas will be evaluated, and how. This is a step you can repeatedly take to determine if the program's initial goals are constantly being met.