In her Forbeswomen article by Womensmedia, contributor Nancy Clark used data from a Hewlett-Packard study on why more women weren’t in top management positions. The study discovered a now often quoted statistic: When applying for a new role, “Men are confident about their ability at 60%, but women don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list.” Clark’s advice, women need to have more faith in themselves.
Common issues faced by women in the workplace that can dampen their self-confidence include gender income inequality, gender bias and stereotypes, work-family life balance, and harassment, the list is long. How better to gain faith in oneself than to have a mentor who has shared your experience and has faced your struggles themselves? Thus, the case for cultivating female mentorship. A mentor-mentee relationship provides the opportunity for female employees to offer or accept guidance. It helps a mentee be prepared for opportunities when they arise.
What makes a good female mentor?
Mentors offer support beyond offering introductions, being a mentor takes time and effort. Good mentors are trustworthy, great listeners who understand how to give feedback in a way that inspires and doesn’t undercut their mentee. One example could be listening to a mentee practice a pitch aloud.
Being a mentor is less about having all the answers and more about asking smart questions, and helping the mentee discover her own answers. The essence of mentoring is in making suggestions, not instructing; empowering a mentee to have the confidence that she can figure it all out. It’s also about knowing when you’re not the best person for the specific situation, instead of giving well-intentioned but ill-informed advice, a good mentor knows when to step back and admit that the best advice will come from elsewhere.
Mentors are not mothers or therapists. It’s important to resist the urge to mother because when one does, the outcome can be a blurring of roles and responsibilities within the relationship, which can only hurt the mentee and degrade her sense of agency and accountability.
Serving as a mentor to a more junior professional woman can result in a lifelong relationship that will continue to nurture and empower her. It’s not uncommon for mentors and mentees to become collaborators and friends, bound by mutual respect and admiration. A good mentor realizes that there comes a point in one’s career where it’s no longer about you, but about how you engage with and empower others to develop to their greatest potential.
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