Experts agree: 2020 will forever change the way we work. More than two million women left the US workforce last year, and we have not yet seen the totality of the impact that this “she-cession” will have on professional women and their families. But we do know that having women in leadership positions improves a company’s performance, culture and resilience. What can women leaders do to help young professional women? Be a mentor.
Why Do Women Need Mentors?
A recent survey found that only 56% of American workers have had a professional mentor over the course of their career. And, of those only 69% of women have had female mentors.
The harsh reality is that only 6 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a woman as CEO—and the women who eventually make it to the C-suite are united by one factor: they are products of mentoring women in the workplace. They’ve learned, listened, observed and grown thanks to other women forging the path and guiding them on it. There’s simply no argument that the need isn’t there … because it is.
But we know the importance of a diverse workforce. The Center for Creative Leadership says that recruiting women increases financial performance:
- “A recent Gallup study found that gender-diverse business units have higher average revenue than less diverse business units.
- Having larger percentages of women in an organization also predicts greater job satisfaction, higher levels of employee engagement, and decreased rates of burnout—for all workers, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or leadership level.”
By connecting rising stars with leaders, companies support their female talent and offer them guidance on communication skills, problem-solving strategies, and internal process navigation skills. The Center for Creative Leadership also found that people who are mentored:
- Are better prepared for promotions and have higher success rates
- Stay with their organizations longer
- Feel more satisfied with their jobs and careers
- Rate higher on performance measures
- Have greater impact in their organizations
- Are perceived as being more innovative and creative
- Show higher resilience to setbacks
- Have stronger networks
Don’t Let Them Go
In an ideal world, women would have the mentors they need to help them navigate their careers. But in many organizations, this isn’t happening and it’s leading to a leaky talent pipeline.
Without access to people who can set the next generation of women up for success and foster experiences they need (as well as support them through the ups and downs that will inevitably come their way), their career progress will most likely stall. When frustration sets in, the desire to advance may seem impossible, and many women settle for where they are—or leave your organization altogether.
The Role of a Mentor
Your role as mentor is to provide guidance for career choices and decisions, as well as help your mentee determine paths to meet specific career goals. Be active in the relationship—don’t rely solely on the mentee to drive it. Check in, meet for coffee, set up regular meetings and ultimately be as connected as you can.
Women often get stuck in the cycle of, “If I do a good job, people will notice … and if I work a little harder, the promotion will happen. I don’t need a mentor or sponsor.” Unfortunately, we know this is not always the case. New roles require new skills—and mentors who have walked that path previously can help It’s that simple.
If your company does not have a formal mentoring program for your female workforce, I urge you to find ways to share your experiences with the young women in your company. As a leader, your expertise can help other women advance in their careers and achieve their goals. As a woman, you can have a tremendous impact on another woman (or women) and help build relationships that can have positively affect future generations of women in the workplace.