There are certainly plenty of women prepared to handle the responsibilities of higher ranks in business, as this plethora of qualified women have already worked and proven themselves far more than worthy.
But what about newer generations of women workers?
Here is where mentorship, for both men and women, becomes an indispensable key.
In a previous blog post, we talked about how women should assume leadership roles in companies across the board, sooner rather than later, and we promised to delve into the importance of mentorship at a later time. That time is now.
Women who have already made successes of themselves have had to overcome certain obstacles to get where they are today. Hurdles such as gender bias, general sexism, toxic work environments and other societal pressures stood in their way, and they have all worked their butts off despite these hurdles to achieve their goals.
As we all know, while the business climate has warmed to involve more women in leadership roles, those hurdles haven’t gotten much shorter. Even as we all fight to dismantle them, we must be prepared to never let up lest they grow stronger again, and while they still exist, women are still forced to jump them.
Those wise women who’ve lived through it all must recognize their imperative to mentor a new breed of woman leader.
Mentorship helps instill priceless confidence in the heart and mind of a young woman just beginning her career. The mentor/mentee relationship leads to a healthy exchange of ideas. Through mentorship, the mentee is afforded a sounding board, another person with whom to vent or to ask for advice or suggestions. The bond leads to productive ways to tackle the fight for equanimity rather than a slash-and-burn, go-it-alone approach. Ideally, the mentor can act as their mentee’s advocate — someone to act as a reference, to recommend them for jobs or promotions, the torque wrench in a networking toolkit.
Of course, the mentor in this relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman. If a man acting in good faith would like to take a young woman under their wing and see after their success — again, all in good faith — there’s not a thing wrong with that. We even encourage it.
But the differences in perspective, experience and privilege between a successful businessman and businesswoman leads us to believe the most fruitful mentorship pairing would be between two women.
Only another woman could understand the difficulties faced by women attempting to forge a career. Only another woman could sympathize with perceived aggressions, harassment and biases. Only another woman could grasp the burden placed upon them to “have it all,” in whatever definition “all” is to whomever is asking.
In short: Only a woman could know what another woman is going through. It is for this reason that women should help lead others through their careers. In the words of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, “We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.”
And that’s what we’re all about.
At the Women & Automotive Canadian Leadership Forum, we always prop up the extraordinary women who’ve made a name for themselves in the auto industry. It’s also always our not-so-secret hope that mentorships spawn from this very special meeting.
We hope that you begin one this year on March 29 in the Westin Harbour Castle.