The Power of Women Mentoring Women•
Posted on January 18 2022
It's National Mentoring Month! And even if your children are still just wee ones, we couldn't let this opportunity slide by without highlighting something very near and dear to our hearts… women mentoring women! As mothers working together in a women-owned business, we will be the first to attest that when women work together, great things happen. But the evidence is not only anecdotal; there is data that shows that one of the most vital forces in helping to break an ever-looming glass ceiling is women helping other women.
Men and women enter the workforce at a similar rate, with 53% of men and 47% of women in entry level positions. But these percentages begin to diverge widely as we move along the corporate pipeline. At the Senior Manager/Director stage, there are 66% of men and 34% of women. By the time we get to the C-suite, we see 78% of men filling these positions and only 22% of women. The disparities are even wider when race is taken into account.
Why is mentoring important?
We are at a time when it is no longer absurd to think of women as business owners and managers and CEOs. In fact, many people agree that women should be in more positions of power. So why this disparity? Here are a few reasons.
- The status quo is difficult to break. Women are making great strides in the working world, and complete gender parity will take time to reach.
- Women often have to take time out of their careers or abandon them entirely when they have children.
- Seeing so few women at the top is discouraging to women just starting out in their careers. They don't believe they can achieve their highest goals.
However, one of the biggest reasons is mentoring. There are far more men at the highest levels of the corporate pipeline, and those men tend to mentor other men. According to a study by Sun Microsystems, mentoring makes a significant difference in career advancement. In a recent study, they found that 25% of employees in a test group who took part in the company’s mentoring program had a salary grade change, compared with just 5% of non-participants. Mentors were promoted six times more often than those not in the program; mentees were promoted five times more often than those not in the program.
This is why mentoring is so important and why it's vital for achieving gender parity.
Why women should mentor other women
Because there are so few women in the highest levels of the corporate pipeline, there is a sort of scarcity effect. Women might, without intending to, get the idea that there is a limit to their career growth and that there isn't enough room for all of them. But the more women succeed, the more the scarcity effect will fade. And the best way for women to succeed is for successful women to mentor other women.
Women are well-suited for mentorship. A study in the Academy of Management Journal found that career development for women is tied more to attachment and relationships, whereas career development for men means increased autonomy and separation from others12. This makes mentoring within small groups or one-on-one sessions perfect for women, fostering conversations and relationships.
Women are also uniquely poised to help women because they have most likely experienced similar challenges as other women. Women can help other women navigate a mostly male-dominated environment, can teach them how to negotiate and be more assertive. Working mothers can also guide other women who are trying to balance work life and family life. Most importantly, women can help other women become successful in their careers without losing what it is that makes them women.
The current prevailing idea of leadership assumes male qualities: aggressiveness, more risky business endeavors, a constant forward motion at all costs. Women who want to succeed sometimes feel that they must take on these qualities in order to succeed. But what if women decided to lead with a more feminine touch? Could we change the face of leadership to look more like compassion, compromise, and conservation? Could women lead while celebrating their woman-ness? Perhaps more women mentorship could help achieve this.
Like everything in life, a balance is called for. Male and female qualities together can make a far more intelligent team than one or the other alone. And this has been proven. A study at the Carnegie Mellon University The researchers discovered that when women made up more than 50 percent of a team, the team’s collective intelligence rose above average4. Gender diverse groups provide varied points of view which make for better decision making. Therefore, more gender diverse groups make for smarter, more impactful teams.
How you can help your daughter succeed
As her mother, you are her first and most important mentor. The things you teach her now, whether verbally or through action, is what will shape her as she becomes a woman.
Instilling in her the idea of women as guardians and allies instead of the competition may help her out big time in the long run. When she's young, encourage her to develop strong female friendships and to be a woman who lifts other women up.
Don't push her to be someone she doesn't want to be. Rather, as a mother, be a guardian and a mentor to your daughter. Encourage her goals and dreams without pressuring her, and support her when she asks for it. Make it a point to take an interest in the things that interest her so she feels safe exploring.
Be a mentor to other women and girls. If you're a businesswoman, look into mentorship roles in your community. If your main role is mother, help out other women by offering support to new mothers. There are infinite ways that women can help other women.