Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women On Business writer
While good mentors for women can be male or female – and I’ve had both – there’s no substitute for an aspiring woman having access to a successful, experienced female mentor. There’s a bond between women that makes woman-to-woman mentoring a very special experience. And, of course, there are some topics that are just more comfortable and appropriate to discuss with another female. As examples, most women feel more comfortable talking with other women about subjects such as child care, balancing work and life, and style issues. When it comes to discussing obstacles and barriers women face in the workplace, this too is definitely a women only discussion.
For these reasons, successful women are in high demand as mentors. Though it requires time most women don’t feel they have, it is vital for executive women to give as much help as possible to other women as mentors. By doing so, we can all help in building up the numbers of women in corporate America.
Women need to have females they can turn to for advice, counsel and encouragement – and who can provide a critical connection within their organizations. This ‘connectedness’ is an important element in making women feel welcome and valued in their organizations. Without this support, women often become frustrated with their workplace environments which may cause them to leave. In order to build the critical mass of women needed at or near the top to begin to impact the culture of companies, women who have made it, or are higher on the organization chart, must make an effort to lend a hand to others.
One way to share your experiences with other women without taking on too much is to say “yes” when you’re asked to participate in an outside professional women’s group, or a women’s initiative in your company or organization. The connections you make through meeting women in this setting are positive in many ways. As you touch the lives of other women who will be helped by your advice and support, you cannot help but feel good about yourself and, while in this type of mentoring role, you will likely improve some of your own skills. If you have special expertise to share, serving on a panel or giving a presentation gives you a boost because you’re enriching your audience, while it helps give you resume-building experience in speaking. These mentoring activities are not the same as one-on-one mentoring, yet it’s a good way to touch your audience and pass on information and experience.
So, although your life is hectic, be open to opportunities to share your wisdom. Remember, mentoring others is a means to inspire other women through your success and knowledge. If you’ve made it to a top position, it’s hard to avoid being viewed as a role model by others. Take it for what it is – a great compliment. And though it may initially make you a bit uneasy – give it time and you’ll become comfortable in this role.
Do you have a special story about a woman mentor?
— From Breaking Into the Boys’ Club 2009