2021 Entrepreneurial Awards

Mentoring Can Help Your Company’s Female Stars Shine

There is a staggering demand for mentors.

Back in 2018, I was approached to help develop a pilot mentor program aimed at developing more women leaders at a global company of 2,100 employees. The pilot idea came from a group of 10 women leaders in the company who saw a need for a concentrated effort to ready more women to fill the talent pipeline.

With my experience in managing corporate mentor programs, we were able to put together the pilot in two months. We offered initial training and mentoring workbooks to provide the needed structure for a successful program, and then the pairs were off and running.

Three years later, that company’s mentor program for women has grown from the initial 10 pairs to 57 pairs this year — and 100 more applied to be in the program but did not get matched this year. There is a staggering demand for mentors — in this company and many, many others.

Mentoring is a cost-effective way to develop talent in both women and men. Mentoring conversations offer an opportunity for a deeper conversation around a variety of topics.

As part of managing mentor programs, I check in with mentors and collect topics covered. Here is a sampling of the range of topics:

  • Being a woman in a male-dominated field
  • How to gain visibility within the organization
  • Handling staff transitions
  • Time management
  • The challenge of overseeing an area without having subject matter expertise
  • Being politically savvy
  • Work-life balance
  • Saying “no” to set boundaries
  • Building an internal network
  • Working across cultures and how international politics affect the work environment
  • How to build your case for asking for a salary increase
  • Maintaining composure during difficult situations
  • How to engage an absentee boss
  • Career planning
  • Thinking more strategically

Often, the pairs will pick out a book to read and discuss. Several mentioned these books: “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg; “Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.” by Brene Brown; “How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Promotion, Raise, or Job” by Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen; and “Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It” by Peggy Klaus. One pair delved into the Japanese philosophy of ikigai. Another pair looked at the Situational Leadership model.

Many of the topics covered are universal, not only for aspiring women leaders. That said, the level of interest in my client’s mentoring program for women shows the high demand for these types of targeted development opportunities. What needs to get started in your organization to support your rising female stars?

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