Guest post by Alicia Vanderschuere (learn more about the author at the end of the article)
Why Mentoring Matters
Successful women know how important the support and encouragement of a mentor—during childhood or early in a career—can be. In fact, almost 70% of women in U.S. Congress and more than half of women business owners were involved in Girl Scouts where mentors helped them learn leadership skills and build confidence and character.
Starting the mentoring relationship early in a girl’s life encourages a life-long desire to seek out influential people as mentors, and breaks down the barriers of pride or competition that can interfere with women asking for guidance.
Leave a Legacy
Mentoring a young woman may not only change a girl’s life, but it can better the life of her children and her community.
The book The Person Who Changed My Life, by Mentoring USA founder Matilda Raffa Cuomo, asks some of the most successful people in America who influenced them. The book includes accounts from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nora Ephron, Geraldine Ferraro, Maya Lin, and Diane Sawyer.
In the book, Good Morning America host Robin Roberts cites her mother’s mentor, Wilma Schnegg, as the greatest influence in her life. Even though Roberts never met the woman who helped her mother get into college, the guidance Schnegg gave Roberts’ mother long ago had an effect that spilled over into the next generation.
Do I Have Something to Give?
Michelle Murray, Community Development/Recruitment Manager for Girl Scouts of Silver Sage, reports her counsel in Idaho has a waiting list of 90 girls who want to be scouts. Without volunteers these girls will continue to wait.
“There isn’t one group that wouldn’t love a crafty mom, or a mom who runs three banks, or a CEO of something. I think everyone has something to give, you’ve just got to be willing to share some time,” Murray said.
Do I Have the Time?
In many cases, the women who have the most to give have the least amount of time to share their experience with the younger generation. Still, there are extraordinary women who know the value of their influence and choose to make mentoring a priority.
Megan Powers of San Diego, CA became a Big Sister as a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in the midst of traveling for work, applying for a master’s program, and numerous other volunteer endeavors.
“I literally wrote out a list of all the ‘non-work’ and ‘non-sleep’ hours each day to see how much time I would have to dedicate to a ‘Little’ and grad school,” Powers wrote in her blog the day she decided to become a Big. “Truth be told, there are a lot of hours in a week!”
Murray advises women who are thinking about volunteering to just be honest with time commitments. “We would never want to put you in a position to let the girls down,” Murray said.
Mentoring can be a rewarding experience for the mentor, as well. Sometimes, just being around energetic, young women can put a spark back in the mentor’s professional life. Other benefits of mentoring others include:
- Résumé building
- Career advancement
- Awards and recognition
- Networking with other women leaders
- Improving leadership skills
“If you are going to lead girls, you have to be the best you that you can be,” said Murray, who feels she is a better leader because of her involvement with her daughters’ troops.
Powers is thrilled to see that her “Little” has grown more confident since they were matched two years ago. Powers is also proud her “Little” will be attending her alma mater, San Diego State University. “I’ll have satisfaction in knowing I helped prepare her for college and what comes after,” Powers said.
How Do I Become a Mentor?
Among the hundreds of mentorship programs across the country, Girl Scouts and Big Brother Big Sister can be found in most cities. If you have something to give and don’t know where to start, join your local Junior League; when organizations are looking for women leaders and volunteers, they often reach out to the Junior League.
There are so many young women who need a positive influence, and so many ways for even the busiest women to give back. Will a tomorrow’s successful women leaders have you to thank?
About the Author
Alicia Vanderschuere is the founder and CEO of rosieMADE, LLC, an online community for women-led businesses and a resource for products made by women in the USA. Go to rosieMADE.com for original gift ideas and to learn more about what it means to give a USA-made gift from rosieMADE. While you’re there, join the Rosie Network of women-led businesses.