Senior and executive level women oftentimes believe that overdelivering and checking every high-scoring box on their performance reviews will land them at the top of the corporate ladder.
And while being a handworker is always an important and sought-after trait by employers, bosses, and boards, it’s not the sole requirement to helping you advance in your career.
Repeatedly, hardworking women can still find themselves in the face of a closed door. So, what’s missing from these women’s professional lives? It’s mentorship.
Mentorship can act as a symbiotic relationship for both the mentor and mentee, and it’s essential that women work to engage in these types of professional partnerships throughout their careers because, if they don’t, who will? Although corporate culture has slowly become more inclusive, there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done. It’s no secret that there’s an ever-present “boy’s club” within the corporate world; men often meet each other for drinks or golf to continue important business discussions, leaving out women. These instances are sometimes unintentional. Anecdotally, men have shared that they feel women want to spend more time with their children or attend and important school function or event and are too busy for extracurriculars with coworkers. Other times, this type of sexism is overt and intentionally exclusionary. Additionally, because sexism is ever-present in the workplace, women need to look out for one another. And even more so, senior level women should be showing junior level executives the path forward.
Women need to be better advocates for one another. Consider that if you’ve attended a useful symposium or seminar, made a useful connection, sat in on a valuable industry specific webinar, or if you’ve got knowledge that would be useful for another woman on your team or within your organization, share it. Invite that woman out for drinks, dinner, or whatever it may be that you find to be a comfortable place to engage with her. Why not open the door for another woman? In turn, that woman may have the opportunity to reach down and boost another woman up in the future. And conversely, if you’re looking to another woman to be a potential mentor, make the introduction, share your professional aspirations with her, and build the relationship. Instead of viewing other women as potential competition, see them as potential collaborators.
I encourage you to take note of the women around you, look beyond yourself, and consider who might be your next mentee or mentor. What powerful partnerships might you create, empowering yourselves and the women around you to push forward and farther. My hope is that this type of relationship breeds success for women and serves as another avenue toward corporate leadership, a new business venture, or perhaps spurs an idea into a partnership and potential entrepreneurship. Take that first step in mentorship. The possibilities really can be endless.
Sheila Ronning, founder and CEO of Women In The Boardroom – an organization founded with the goal of bridging the gender gap in the boardroom – is a recognized expert on boardroom diversity and leadership. Follow her on Twitter (Twitter @RonningSheila) or reach out to her at Ronning@womenintheboardroom.com
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