It’s common knowledge in the business world that mentorship is hugely important for the health and longevity of one’s career. No matter what industry you are in, or what level you are on in your career, having a mentor to turn to for guidance is one of the most valuable resources that any individual can have.
This is especially true for women. A study featured in the Harvard Business Review found that after two years of working, women are drained of both confidence and aspiration. It was found that the aspiration to get to “C-suite” levels are reduced by 60% and confidence that they could/would make it to that level drops by 50%. There are several aspects of business that factor into this outcome, but one of the most prominent issues is that women are not equipped with the support systems and recognition necessary to maintain morale and aspirations.
CTO and co-founder of Meebo Sandy Jen was quoted saying,
“What I learned…is women tend to underestimate themselves. They can accomplish so much, but they don’t identify themselves as being powerful and smart and just as good as the guy next to them. They make excuses for their achievements… Be confident for who you are.” (source)
This is fantastic advice, but may very well be easier said than done when women are not given the proper resources for success. That’s where mentorship comes in. Mentors provide mentees with the space and freedom to ask for feedback and information, as well as to seek out positive affirmation and support when they are facing stress in their professional life.
It’s particularly important for women to have other women as mentors. A study carried out by Dr. Lucia Gilbert of Santa Clara University found that “that female students, more than male students, rated the same-sex mentor’s lifestyle and values as highly important to their own professional development.” Women need to see diversity in their superiors and high level management in general. The study also showed that a relationship with a female mentor helped female mentees to shy away from the “socialization to please and defer to men.”
Mentorship for women allows the mentees to build a network or relationships outside of their current organizations. If mentees are in a space where they are not seeing women promoted or in positions of power, it’s important that they be given access to spaces where that is the case. Even well-networked women will benefit from having a more senior person expanding their professional network. Male or female mentors alike can afford their mentees access to people and resources that can provide a positive outside perspective (and provide continued inspiration and opportunities for professional growth).
Melissa Ko is the Managing Member of Covepoint Capital Advisors, LLC and serves as the Chief Investment Officer of its flagship, the Covepoint Emerging Markets Macro Fund. Please visit https://about.me/melissako, https://melissakoblog.wordpress.com/, http://melissakocovepoint.tumblr.com/, and http://www.slideshare.net/MelissaKo1 to learn more!