On February 12, in 40 cities across the country, the Business Journal publications hosted the fifth annual Bizwomen Mentoring Monday, a series of speed coaching and networking events. I had the privilege of serving as a mentor for the second year in a row at the Raleigh forum, which provided seven-minute one-on-one sessions to over 100 women, and included a keynote speaker.
Networking with the mentees and the business leaders is a rewarding and educational experience for all parties. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a diverse group of women with many different backgrounds and life experiences. Some were in college and wanted to discuss career opportunities, while others were considering making a change in their existing careers. I enjoyed hearing about their aptitudes and why they may be interested in my industry, commercial real estate. Here is what I found to be the importance of mentoring other women:
1. Female leadership brings in more women
In a study of American adults run by the Rockefeller Foundation, respondents acknowledged the importance of female leadership to women entering the workforce. Two-thirds (65%) say it’s highly important to them that younger women starting their careers have more women in leadership positions as role models. This desire is especially intense among millennial women (82% of women younger than 35) (Women in Leadership, Why it Matters).
2. Female mentorship helps women in male-dominated fields
Women in male-dominated fields have better experiences and higher retention rates when they have female mentors. A year-long study of female engineering undergraduates, showed that those students paired with a female mentor experienced more belonging, motivation and confidence than those with either a male mentor or no mentor. Those students with female mentors also exhibited higher career aspirations (Female peer mentors early in college increase women’s positive academic experiences and retention in engineering).
3. Mentoring helps people advance to senior positions
In the same Rockefeller Foundation study, respondents saw several specific barriers as contributing to the relative scarcity of female leaders, including lack of support from mentors in securing top positions (83%) and for career advancement more generally (80%), as well as lack of access to personal connections that men have which help with career development (75%). Additionally, over 83% agreed that not having women in leadership positions contributed to preventing women from securing top leadership positions. However, through sponsorship and advocacy, mentorship helps people rise to leadership positions (Women in Leadership, Why it Matters). Forbes contributor and author Martie Warrell notes that mentorship is “proven to be a critical element of success by providing protégés with the opportunity to broaden perspective, build social capital, navigate organizational politics, and have the confidence to speak up when it matters most” (Mentoring Matters: How More Women Can Get The Right People In Their Corner).
Empowering women and offering them a facility for growth also benefits the company in many ways including:
4. More diversity = more success
Having women in your company is good for your bottom line. A McKinsey analysis from 2015 found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians (and those with racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely) (Why diversity matters). Additionally, a Dow Jones report from 2012 showed that having a higher percentage of women in senior executive roles was tied to greater financial success (Women at the Wheel: Do Female Executives Drive Start-up Success?).
5. Mentorship benefits the employer
Having a mentor helps employees develop skills and qualities that are valuable to the workplace, including leadership skills, self-awareness, teamwork and communication. Additionally, offering a mentorship program signals to employees that their well-being and success are valued. Thus, mentorship builds stronger employees while making them want to stay at a place where they can see themselves growing and achieving their career aspirations.
I’m honored to be a mentor. I learn so much from others when I mentor them and it definitely keeps me current. I look forward to many more opportunities to work with other future leaders.
Women in Leadership, Why it Matters, https://assets.rockefellerfoundation.org/app/uploads/20160512082818/Women-in-
Female peer mentors early in college increase women’s positive academic experiences and retention in engineering, http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/05/16/1613117114
Mentoring Matters: How More Women Can Get The Right People In Their Corner, https://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2017/06/24/women-mentoring/#44df6a22dba7
Why diversity matters, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters
Women at the Wheel: Do Female Executives Drive Start-up Success?, http://www.goldenseeds.com/content/PDFs/WomenPE_report_final.pdf