“As a young woman focused on my career, is it important for me to find a mentor? And if so, should the mentor be a woman?” – Nora in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Do you feel that mentoring is crucial to career success? I do. My career has been enhanced and advanced thanks to the mentoring I received. Developing new knowledge, skills, and attitudes is easier when a mentor shows you the way. However, although my mentors were phenomenal in so many ways, I also felt a disconnect: all of my mentors were men. I was mentored from a male perspective of playing by the rules. And while these men embraced workplace parity and wanted to see their employees thrive, I lacked the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by women who had achieved success in their careers by changing the rules.
Drop the Dagger
Early in my career, the women in leadership positions seemed to have a dagger between their teeth. They had clambered and ascended over the backs of others, especially other women. It was as if they had taken on the worst behaviors. It was a painful to witness, and, to this day, I view it as an abject denial of our strength as women to succeed on our own terms. Why should women fight each other when they can help one another? There’s room for all of us, and we’re stronger together. We all win when we’re on the same team.
Strength and Resilience
In lacking female mentors, I instead found female peers who were ready to encircle one another with encouragement and collective experience. We supported and nurtured each other to move into leadership positions. Through learned insights, we lent a hand up the ladder while sharing our challenges and obstacles. My female peers and I found strength and power in each other, and they were invaluable in helping us all ascend. Together, we paved a new road for younger women, who lead by embracing who they are, celebrating common ground, and recognizing our uniquely female qualities.
Respect and Communication
A women’s approach to given situations is often quite different from men. Women mentoring women is the ideal resource to foster skills, vanquish doubts, and enhance potential. With guidance and encouragement, there is exposure to another way or better alternatives to achieve goals. It’s the equivalent of a lightning bolt or an epiphany. The essential component is sharing and accepting new ideas, constructive criticism, and shifting the thought process.
Women mentoring women has some compelling benefits. The experiences of women in the workplace have nuances and aspects that have little cognizance or recognition from our male peers. Female mentors share a common experiential baseline with the women they guide. We get it, from an unbalanced work environment to not being heard. Our shared attitudinal tendencies in life and work promote an honest and open relationship. These are the building blocks for strong mentoring support and the avenue to achieving full potential.
Every day I see women stepping up to engage and provide mentoring to other women. Women who have forged the path forward have the power to make a real difference for the next wave. It’s awesome. Sharing our insights and hard-learned lessons with younger women take all of us to a new level of parity. Through our mentoring efforts we further disrupt the status quo and change the rules.
Effective mentors give you the opportunity to tilt your paradigm and see around it. Female leaders and champions acquire their strength through a prism that encompasses divergent approaches and perspectives. We have the ability to establish an opportunity for transformation, for all women to break down the barriers and overcome the obstacles that they’ll face during their climb to the top.
Change the Rules
I believe it’s the responsibility of female leaders to mentor young women to successfully navigate the challenges we have already faced and conquered. We must enthusiastically fill in skill gaps, foster a culture of growth, and drive impact for women in the pursuit of greater responsibilities, recognition, and leadership roles. Working together, we can lift all women up and grind the glass ceiling into dust.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.