Why Supporting Women Through Mentorship Is Important

In this article, we will be discussing the benefits of mentoring for women and sharing examples of how mentoring has been used to support women in their careers.

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In honour of international women’s day this March 8th 2023, it’s a good time to discuss the importance of supporting women through mentoring. Mentoring is incredibly advantageous for participants and organisations across the globe, which is why it’s becoming a more popular tool used to help support the development and career progression of those involved.

Unfortunately, even in 2023, women are still facing gender inequality within the workplace and their professional lives. That’s why, now more than ever as a way to help combat the challenges faced by women, mentoring is being used to help support women and help them advance in their careers. Despite recent progress in closing the gender gap, there are still challenges being regularly faced, some of these include:

• Pay inequality - The gender pay gap is a problem faced by women across the globe. Recent studies reveal that women earn on average 16% less than their male counterparts.

• Being underrepresented in the workplace - Even in 2023, women are still underrepresented in the workplace, with research showing that in the UK only 41% of workplace management roles are occupied by women. With only 1 in 5 C-suite executives being a woman and even lower for women of colour at 1 in 25.

• Harassment and discrimination - Research shows that 67% of women in the workplace have experienced gender discrimination, with 81% of women stating they have been harassed in their lifetime and 38% experiencing harassment in the workplace.

• Work-life imbalance - Whilst work-life balance is something most professionals struggle with during their careers, it’s something that can prove challenging for women causing a conflict for 72% of women.

• Breaking the glass ceiling - On average women are 14% less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts. With 1 in 4 women believing that their gender has influenced the decision in receiving a raise, a promotion or hindering career development.

These are just a few of the challenges being faced and whilst mentoring can’t solve every issue, there are some incredible benefits, especially for women navigating their professional lives. In this article, we will be discussing the benefits of mentoring for women and sharing examples of how mentoring has been used to support women in their careers.

What is Mentoring?

Before we get into the article, it’s important to give you a brief overview of mentoring. Mentoring is a widely recognised and popular form of professional career development, training, upskilling and growth. Simply put, mentoring is where an individual shares their knowledge, skills, and experience to help another person (the mentee) to progress. The progression is either personal or professional, either way, it’s a highly impactful method to accomplish your goals.

What Are the Benefits of Mentoring for Women?

“Mentoring is such a powerful development tool that is often misunderstood and therefore underused by individuals and organisations. It is a place where you can ask all the questions in private that you don't want to ask out loud. The response you receive is based on your mentor's real-life experience, not a model or theory that is found in a textbook.” – Jane Ferré, Executive Coach.

Mentoring comes in many different forms, from reverse mentoring to traditional mentoring, however, one thing they have in common is the ability to be highly valuable for those involved. From the mentor and mentee to an organisation as a whole, mentoring is changing the way we used to seek career progression and development opportunities. But how can mentoring be used to help support and develop women both personally and professionally? Let’s find out.

1. Mentoring Improves Representation Within the Workplace

Women are still completely underrepresented in leadership roles. The statistics speak for themselves, for every 100 men promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and even lower for women of colour at 82. But how can mentoring help? Well, when there is a workplace mentoring program in place, female mentors can act as role models for other women in the company. Even in our professional lives, working with a mentor who has a similar background can be inspiring and motivational. The mentor can work alongside their mentee to guide and advise them throughout their professional life and help them combat any challenges they may face in the workforce. Being able to relate to leaders within the workplace gives women the motivation and confidence to strive for that level.

2. Mentoring Helps Women Build a Professional Network

Whilst networking is a benefit of mentoring and important for any individual, it can be said that mentoring is particularly crucial for women. Having a mentor is a great way for women to build their professional network and develop the skills needed to effectively make connections in the future. A mentor provides their mentee with the opportunity to connect with other professionals to whom they may not have had access to previously. Especially in the workplace, where women can feel isolated due to being a minority. The ability to connect with other women is incredibly empowering. Networking is an important part of career progression, providing the mentee with higher visibility within the workplace but also the ability to network with others who may be able to assist them going forward in their career.

3. Mentoring Can Help Change Perceptions

Mentoring can help change the perception women have of an organisation. When it comes to mentoring programs within an organisation, one of the biggest benefits of implementing is its ability to help positively change the perception women may have of the workplace. When underappreciated, women feel as though their abilities and talents are not valued by leadership and are more likely to leave their roles in search of a new one. A shocking 71% of female workers feel underappreciated at work. The implementation of a mentoring program shows that an organisation not only values their employees but also wants to help them go further by supporting their career progression and development.

4. Mentoring Can Reduce Burnout

Whilst burnout can happen to all individuals, 43% of women leaders are burned out in comparison to 31% of men at their level, with 34% of female employees being more likely to experience mental health issues, such as stress or burnout compared to their male co-workers. Decreasing burnout is becoming an increasingly popular priority for both organisations and individuals, due to the detrimental impact it can have on an individual's performance and well-being. With women, 12% more likely to experience burnout, mentoring is a great tool to help women reduce the chances of burnout. A mentor is there to provide their mentee with valuable advice and support when dealing with situations that could become overwhelming, sharing their own experiences and wisdom. Mentors can help their mentees identify situations that could potentially lead to burnout and help the mentee come up with solutions.

5. Mentoring Provides the Opportunity for Feedback

Without feedback, your professional development can slow down. Feedback is essential and without it, many people fail to see where they need to improve. Whilst, most people regardless of their gender can be sceptical of feedback, it’s an essential part of our professional journey. Studies show that whilst women are just as likely to ask for feedback in comparison to their male colleagues, they are 20% less likely than men to receive difficult and actionable feedback due to leadership not wanting to risk being ‘hurtful’. This gap in feedback is more than likely impacting the careers of hard-working women. Mentoring is a great way to support women, as a good mentor is there to offer constructive feedback to their mentee, to help them develop.

Examples of Supporting Women Through Mentoring

To provide a deeper understanding of how mentoring can be used to support women in the workplace and their professional lives, we knew it was important to speak to women with real-life mentoring experiences to truly understand how mentoring has had a positive impact on their lives. We asked several women how mentoring has been able to help them. Here’s what they had to say:

“I have had a number of mentors in my professional life, one woman in particular stands out. She was very senior and I was working with her closely on a high-level project. I admired the way that she handled herself in the most challenging situations, the way that she understood the impact of this project on the workforce and how she empathised with them. I learned so much from her that I took through the rest of my corporate career and now into running my own business. I didn't officially ask her to be my mentor, I think she assumed the role naturally.” – Jane Ferré, Executive Coach.

“As a mentee, I have gained awareness on how best to be successful in the business world by understanding the "hidden rules" - how to deal with workplace politics, how to influence without having power, how to manage upwards...these things aren't really taught in college.” – Wendy Smith, CEO & Founder of Metamorphosis Solutions.

“As a business owner, I have felt isolated at times and there are some areas I am not sure about such as marketing because it is outside my experience. I had been able to start thinking about this myself and I did some research but my Mentor asked me some questions about why I was struggling and I was able to identify some barriers I needed to work on such as growing my self-confidence. Meeting regularly with them meant that when I set some goals, I felt accountable, I knew she would expect an update and this made me more determined and focused on getting the important tasks completed. It was fantastic to have this other person who was so interested in my success and they also shared some of their ideas – some things they had used themselves in this area – this was so useful too.” – Julie Buckingham, Solution-Focused Leadership and Management Coach.

“Mentoring has helped me reflect on my own strengths and achievements to date as well as shed light on things I wish I’d done differently and helped me learn in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s also helped me connect deeply with people I wouldn’t otherwise have had a chance to connect with. And share my experience and privilege in some cases with those less able to access the same opportunities as me (through societal inequity).” – Lydia Holly Blue Garrett, Director of Special Projects at Igniting Change.      

“At the start of our MotherBoard journey, we found ourselves having to be quite dynamic and coming up against several challenges that were difficult to navigate around as we had not experienced this before. It wasn’t until after I hosted several events around mentorship and learned more about the benefits and importance of having one, that I took a step back and thought, why don’t we have a mentor to guide us through the growth of MotherBoard?! We had a mentor for several months who guided us through that particular stage of our growth, how to balance working on MotherBoard alongside our day jobs, the best ways to network & share our mission, and how to prioritise what should come next on our journey.”
– Amber Rowbottom, Senior Tech Recruiter at ADLIB & Community Engagement Partner at MotherBoard.

Should All Women Have a Mentor?

The real question is “should all women have a mentor?” but in honesty, there is no definitive answer. Whilst having a mentor comes with some incredible benefits and we always suggest that everyone should try it once, it completely depends on what the woman is looking to achieve from the relationship.

We asked women with real-life mentoring experience, if they believed all women should have a mentor, and if so, why and how mentoring be used to support the mentee. This is what they said:

“I believe that everyone should have a mentor, not just women. I also believe that you should have more than one mentor throughout your professional life, depending what it is that you need support with at a particular time. They are great sounding boards, particularly if you find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable or you know is not right. You can speak confidentially with someone, especially if they are outside of your organisation. You can also talk through a number of options, understanding the pros and cons of each. Many mentors have also been there and done it, so will provide you with a "heads up" about what to expect in certain situations. I have found this particularly useful when starting a new role, taking on a new project or working with someone who may be seen as challenging. My mentor has gently steered me in the right direction.” – Jane Ferré, Executive Coach.

“I think anyone, male or female, who is interested in maximising their potential and setting themselves up for success should have a mentor.” – Wendy Smith, CEO & Founder of Metamorphosis Solutions.

“Ideally, yes, at every stage of our lives – as students, parents, employees, retirees – having someone who is a few steps on from us and has the experience and knowledge but who is also open and interested to get to know our thoughts would be powerful. There are so few people who actively listen to us and the world is getting more pressurised and time is at a premium, so setting aside time to get the full attention of another person, to become more reflective instead of reactive would be transformational.” – Julie Buckingham, Solution-Focused Leadership and Management Coach.

“I think it is very useful for most women however, like coaching, it does not work for all. If it is right for you: It can help you focus, take time to understand what is really going on and allow you to spend some quality time on yourself.” – Wendy Macartney, HR & Coaching Psychologist.

“Yes, I do. I think that there is a bit of fear behind the term “mentorship” and the commitments that come with it – but learning more about the subject would be highly beneficial to all women, even If you choose not to go down a “formal” mentorship route.

There are so many options to explore; you could have several mentors for different areas of your life, and it doesn’t have to be just one person! For example, you could have a mentor if you were looking to get a promotion, this person could be in a similar position to the one that you are seeking, and your time together could be spent talking about what they did to get there. Or it could be that you are feeling totally lost and defeated, the person you choose could be your guide on how to feel more confident in your role.

Something to note is that the tech industry is very male-dominated, and sometimes that can be quite daunting. A lot of businesses, (especially start-ups) have an all-male staff, this can be daunting for young women who are joining the tech industry, even if they haven’t directly voiced this. My advice to businesses is to have internal mentorship programs and to offer supportive and inclusive working environments. Having a mentorship program within the business is imperative to retaining female talent!” – Amber Rowbottom, Senior Tech Recruiter at ADLIB & Community Engagement Partner at MotherBoard.

Final Thoughts

As discussed throughout this article, mentoring is a highly impactful and useful tool that can help a mentee reach their full potential. Whilst mentoring might not be for everyone, it’s always something we recommend trying once.

We hope this article was able to showcase how and why we should be supporting women through mentoring, in the workplace and within their professional lives.

If you want to learn more about mentoring and organisational mentoring programs, book a free demonstration with a member of the PushFar team today.

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