According to a global survey from DDI, some 63% of women professionals in its study never had a formal mentor. Yet studies about the impact of mentorship consistently show that mentored employees generally receive higher compensation, are more likely to be promoted and feel more committed to their careers than non-mentored employees.
Thus, one of the key ways to help improve female representation in the C-suite and in the entrepreneurial world is to unlock access to mentors for women. Mentors help their mentees to avoid making unnecessary mistakes, build their proficiency faster and strengthen their confidence. They can offer a sounding board for ideas and a sympathetic ear.
For women in industries with low levels of female representation, mentorship, from another woman who has navigated the pitfalls and knows the ropes can be especially valuable. Sometimes, it’s good to know that someone else has travelled the same lonely road and can offer a perspective of what lies around the corner.
Here are some ways in which mentorship can be invaluable for women building a business or a corporate career:
- Gaining objective insights and advice.
- Tap into an expanded business network.
- Hone skills and expertise.
- Build confidence.
- Exposure to new ways of thinking.
- Gain inspiration.
- Stay on track towards your goals.
Let’s take a closer look.
1. Gaining objective insights and advice
It’s extremely valuable to be able to turn to someone who has the emotional distance and business acumen to analyse your challenges and opportunities from a more objective standpoint. Your mentor may have experienced the same challenges or seen similar circumstances to yours, and can provide advice about how you can navigate the situations you face to your advantage.
2. Tap into an expanded business network
The endorsement and support of your mentor can open access to a much wider professional network. A good mentor is often a great connector who can introduce you to a range of valuable business contacts – potential clients, partners or employees as well as other women in the same industry or role as you.
3. Hone skills and expertise
One of the keys to staying ahead in a world that is moving so fast is to embrace continuous learning. A mentor can provide you with practical advice and constructive feedback to help you sharpen your capabilities – whether these are technical proficiencies or softer skills such as negotiation and leadership.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, it can be empowering to receive mentorship from someone who has had similar struggles to yours or who has seen others overcome the obstacles you face. Hearing about how someone persevered through difficult times and ultimately triumphed can help you to stay motivated and focused.
5. Build confidence
It’s important to believe in yourself, but having the support of someone you respect as you build your career or business can really boost your confidence. In addition to the morale boost, the process of building your skills through the mentorship relationship will also help you to become more confident in your abilities.
6. Exposure to new ways of thinking
It’s easy to get trapped into cognitive biases or stale thinking when you’re caught up in the day-to-day grind. A relationship with a mentor is a way to get exposure to alternative ways of thinking that can help you to make important career breakthroughs. For example, your mentor might be able to articulate career paths or client opportunities you had not considered.
7. Gain inspiration
Although you are going to make your own path through your life and your career, it’s valuable to look to role models for inspiration. Their behaviours, thinking, and experiences can help guide you towards the goals you wish to achieve.
8. Stay on track towards your goals
A formal mentorship relationship can help you to set goals for your career and work towards accomplishing them. Your mentor will be able to discuss your objectives with you and help you to understand the progress you are making. They may also be able to suggest ways you can get closer to your goals, for example, through training or coaching.
What to look for in a mentor
The ideal mentor is someone who complements your strengths and weaknesses – someone who has the experience you are lacking and the willingness to share that experience with you. It goes without saying that your mentor should be someone you respect and admire, whether they work in exactly the same field as you or could offer perspectives and insights from a different vantage point. A great mentor will be energetic, eager to share knowledge, patient, friendly and a good listener.
Entering a mentoring relationship provides women in tech with an avenue for encouragement, challenge, and both personal and professional growth. As with any other relationship, mentoring is organic and grows over time based on commitment, respect and trust.