“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” ~ Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State.
Since Madeleine K. Albright first spoke those words in 2006, this phrase has been repeated as a kind of battle cry for women in the workplace. It’s clear that women are catching on to the idea that when we help each other, we all succeed. In this post, I’ll explain how mentoring offers one powerful tool for helping women in business to lift each other up.
Statistics illustrate the need for mentoring women
Although women have come far politically, socially, economically and professionally, the glass ceiling is still very much in place.
Women are underpaid and underrepresented in positions of leadership compared to our male counterparts. The LinkedIn 2017 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report found that women represented fewer than 50 percent of leaders in every industry analyzed.
In some fields, such as energy and mining or manufacturing, representation of women was far lower, with women holding fewer than 20 percent of leadership positions.
Women also still face a wage gap, today earning 80 cents to every dollar a man makes.
How mentoring can be used as a powerful tool for women
So how exactly can mentorship help women overcome these barriers?
Insights into company dynamics
First, mentorship within a company provides insider knowledge into how the company functions and the skills that one needs to get ahead.
A mentor provides invaluable insights from his or her own experience for the benefit of the mentee, helping her to avoid mistakes and hone skills that will make her stand out.
Instituting mentorship programs within a company is a great way to boost equality in the workplace.
Because women are playing on an uneven playing field, it shouldn’t be surprising that they sometimes suffer from lack of confidence, even neglecting to apply for jobs if they don’t think they’re fully qualified. One report revealed that men apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 percent of them.
Mentors can help their mentees by guiding them to identify their strengths and building their confidence.
Woman-to-woman mentoring is the most powerful tool
Although mentorship should be welcomed from either gender, there is an argument to be made for woman-to-woman mentorship.
The Lean In organization reports that women “get less day-to-day support and less access to senior leaders. They are more likely to deal with harassment and everyday discrimination. They often feel the added scrutiny that comes from being the only woman in the room. And understandably, they think it’s harder for them to advance.”
Having a mentor that has been through similar struggles is a powerful thing.
Not to mention that if we can see a woman in a place of leadership that we aspire to, it’s easier to imagine ourselves there. A woman mentor not only offers practical advice but also offers proof that you can follow in her footsteps.
Benefits of mentoring women multiply over time
Mentorship is also a two-way street.
The skills needed to mentor are the skills that every great leader should have: compassion, confidence, integrity, the ability to listen and the ability to give clear, concise advice.
When women mentor other women, they’re also honing their own skills and building confidence that they can lead.
It works on two levels. First, mentoring helps women get ahead in their careers and makes it easier for them to land positions of leadership. Second, when women are leaders, they tend to raise other women up.
For instance, did you know that when women are more involved in film screenwriting, they give female characters better roles and lines?
Similarly, when more women are represented in leadership, they tend to hire more women across the board.
This goes to show that, consciously or not, women are helping to raise other women up when they get the chance. Mentoring women is a powerful tool to help level the gender playing field in the workplace and otherwise.