Building a Culture of Female Mentorship

Joe Weinlick
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While a culture of female leaders is no longer a distant fantasy, women have a long way to go before they gain as much upward mobility as their male colleagues. Mentoring programs can help women of all ages develop rewarding relationships and skills to accelerate their careers. If your employer wants to empower women in the workplace, learn why it's crucial for company leaders to create effective mentoring programs.

Persistent Gaps in Leadership

Women bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the workforce, but few are seeing the long-term benefits of delivering stellar performance on the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that women hold roughly 52 percent of professional-level jobs. Women also earn nearly 60 percent of all undergraduate and master's degrees, 48 percent of medical degrees and 47 percent of law degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Yet, only 5 percent of CEOs at S&P 500 companies are female, 11 percent are top earners and less than 22 percent are executive or senior-level leaders, according to the nonprofit research firm Catalyst. Despite the time and effort women are devoting to professional development, the female presence in leadership is growing at a staggeringly slow rate.

Lack of Structured Mentoring Programs

Even when a company strives to promote gender equality, many professional women struggle to find role models to emulate. Historically, women have been pitted against one another in ways that discourage positive relationships. To overcome this stigma, it's important for employers to provide consistent opportunities for female colleagues to bond and learn from each other.

Informal mentorships aren't enough to create measurable results in your organization. Women need to see other females commanding respect at work and demonstrating leadership skills that lead to success. A structured mentoring program ensures all employees receive ongoing guidance. And by pairing women with mentors in various roles, they develop strong interdepartmental relationships and learn to think strategically about achieving company goals.

Improved Talent Acquisition and Development

Lack of gender equality is one reason for the supposed "talent shortage." Good workers leave or avoid companies that have a reputation for being unsupportive of women. Whether it's failing to promote qualified female candidates or withholding key benefits, such as fair parental leave, employers who have outdated views of women in the workplace lose out on top talent. Establishing a mentoring program is a smart way to attract engaged employees and groom them to be the next generation of female leaders.

Instead of pairing women based on their personalities, match mentors and mentees who have complementary skills, says Kailynn Bowling, co-founder of ChicExecs PR firm. That way, employees gain deeper insight into company operations, sharpen their skills faster and become more valuable to your organization. Mentoring programs also teach women to be expert communicators who can navigate diverse business settings, Bowling points out.

Both employers and employees win when companies take an active role in nurturing female leadership. Use mentoring programs to identify and promote internal talent, helping your organization lower long-term recruitment costs. Women are ready to step up into higher positions. Take a proactive approach to female mentorship to give motivated women the opportunity to use their strengths. Has your employer taken steps to develop mentoring programs? What strategies did or didn't work for your company?


Photo courtesy of Maryland GovPics at Flickr.com

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