Before I became a business owner, I was working in an industry where I had the opportunity to manage a LOT of young women. I not only learned how to be extremely diplomatic, but I also realized over time that many of these girls considered me to be a role model. At first I was like, "Me?? No,way, they can't really be looking up to me!" But they were, and suddenly I began to feel very responsible. I had never considered the idea of mentoring young women before.
Because no one had mentored me.
Hell, there was no one to mentor me. When I was learning the ropes and stumbling along through business, there really weren't many women around to admire. Most of the women I knew were terrifying, micromanagers or didn't take the business world all that seriously. I carved my own path by deciding that no matter what I did, I would work my ass off. It was a pretty solid decision to make, considering I lacked so much direction.
Put the Claws Away
It used to be every woman for herself. You've been around for years and suddenly that new, ambitious girl shows up in your department. Maybe you'd act cold and unwelcoming. Or maybe you'd be worried that she'd make you look bad and so you'd try to do the same to her. But not anymore, instead you can help her. Mentor her even.
Mentoring young women at work can:
- Make you look good because you work well with others
- Make you look good because there is great work coming from your department
- Show everyone else that you're confident in your work
- Create one of your biggest supporters (her!)
Empowering another woman doesn't take your power away. If anything it helps grow and foster your talents as a leader. Your superiors will take note of how you interact with others, including other women. If you get along just fine with men at work and are noticeably cold (trust me, if you are, it's noticeable) to other women, it will reflect poorly on you. It could even be what prevents you from getting that promotion you want.
Collaboration Vs. Competition
Women can do great things when they work together. Just look at The Indie Chicks! We are three women who are all passionate, driven and wake up every day with the goal to help other women empower themselves. We understand that in order for this to work we have to help each other, we have to take on different roles, respect each other and most of all listen.
We also know that there are a lot of fantastic websites and blogs out there that have a similar message to ours. So we invite them over. We welcome them. We swap articles. We understand that there are enough readers to go around and if someone likes you, they might like us too and vice versa. Quite simply: we're stronger, better and more efficient when we work together.
What does women collaborating with each other have to do with mentoring young women? Everything. Because we're showing them what to do with our actions rather than just telling them with our words.
Lead by Example
You may have no idea that you're even doing it, but you could be mentoring young women, too. In my last position I would always forward on resumes of hard working girls that worked for me. If one of them wanted to chat, ask me career questions or reach out to me for any reason, I was there. I listened and did my best to answer the questions both honestly and as knowledgeably as possible. It never occurred to me that this was mentoring. It was just something I did, and wanted to do.
Make helping other women a priority, volunteer, put in a good word-- these are all ways you can lead by example. For me, when I started my business I decided that I'd only take on female interns, hire female employees and help create opportunities for women. I decided to be the woman that I never had, I want to give back to these girls and let them know that if they are willing to work hard, I'll be in their corner.
It's also important to make sure your actions are in line with your words. If you tell a young woman it's not okay to do something and then you go and do it-- you've not only discredited yourself, but now you've confused a young girl who essentially wants to be like you.