For Mid-Career Women, A Mentor Is Key

Posted on November 5th, 2014 by Melissa

DNOmentorMentors matter, and many women in business today can attribute part of their success to lessons learned through a mentoring relationship. On one level, a mentor helps women become empowered, with more self-confidence and resolve. On another, mentors serve as a guide, role model and advisor.

Women Are Losing Their Momentum Just As They’re Ready for Top Jobs

Something happens to many women when they hit their mid-career stride. Mike Larrain, an executive at L’Oreal, noticed that there are specific moments when women are particularly vulnerable to falling behind. He has repeatedly seen women – after working their way through entry-level and early mid-level positions – lose their momentum just as they were primed to enter top jobs.

As he told Fast Company, “Women are still vastly underrepresented at the top of companies, making up only 24 percent of senior leadership positions globally. It is incumbent on male leaders to give women the support and strategic advice that they need to move up the ladder.”

A new study recently released by Bain & Company finds that nearly half of all new women employees aspire to top management but only 16 percent continue to hold that ambition throughout their first five years. Comparatively 34 percent of men, who begin their careers confident they will reach the top, remain so after two or more years of experience.

Women Need Meaningful Recognition and Support During Mid-Career

This study refutes the belief that marriage or starting a family is responsible for sidetracking women when it comes to career advancement. It suggests, “Women lack meaningful recognition and support from managers during the mid-level career period, when women crystalize their aspirations and build – or erode – their confidence.”

The study validates what Larrain has seen too, and reinforces his decision to devote time and resources to mentoring women on his team. He finds those efforts especially crucial during times when women might lose faith in themselves.

It’s important to remember though that mentoring women doesn’t just fall to bosses and company leadership. It’s everyone’s responsibility to mentor others. A report from LinkedIn found that one woman in five lacks a mentor, and the deck is stacked against women over 44. Nearly two-thirds of boomer women between 45-66 years old responded that they have never had a woman mentor.

A Mentor Can Help A Woman Thrive In Corporate Culture

If Larrain’s observations and the Bain & Company study are accurate, it is the women over 44 who are hitting their mid-career stride that really need a mentor. We need to look at why the deck is stacked against them, and reach out to help them along. After all, a mentor can help a woman not only survive, but thrive in the corporate culture, and this is the demographic that is proving to need a mentor most.

It is up to all of us to build strong support systems, and mentor one another while connecting in the workplace and the community. The benefits of mentoring go both ways. Both the mentor and the woman being mentored learn from each other during the mentoring process. Successful women are guiding others through the ranks and helping them with their own experience, and through mentoring relationships, we can help women through their mid-career to top management and beyond!~Dr. Nancy

Read more about Larrain’s experiences at Fast Company.

The full Bain & Company study can be found here.

 

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