Giving Guidance to the Next Generation of Female Leaders

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Women are in the workplace to stay. Unfortunately, pre-existing and newly emerging societal pressures are making it ever more difficult for women to find positions of authority and influence akin to those held by men for millennia. Even as some women demonstrate their proficiency in effective leadership ― Sheryl Sandberg, Elizabeth Warren, Oprah ― America continues to fail to achieve gender equality in representation and pay across careers.

Fortunately, there is a solution: Mentorship. By pairing successful women with aspirational girls, females can help each other achieve the equality that will make this country great.

Mentorship is a seemingly simple program that provides amazing results for businesses as well as individuals. Mentors act as role models for their mentees, sharing wisdom acquired through years in their careers, helping their mentees learn new skills and knowledge, and listening sympathetically to a mentee’s dreams, desires, fears, and flaws. Mentors and mentees communicate regularly, giving mentees consistent opportunities to learn and improve. By participating in a mentorship program, mentors help the next generation of workers gain sure footing in their careers, ensuring widespread success and happiness.

It isn’t difficult to see how mentorship has the potential to close the gender gap. The few women who have found success in the patriarchal structure of corporate America can help the next generation find an easier path to leadership positions, giving women more influence and ensuring a higher proportion of C-suite ladies in the future. The benefits of more women leaders hardly need to be stated: More diverse opinions lead to innovative business decisions and ultimately generate larger profits. Yet, more importantly, it takes America one step closer to achieving true equality between the sexes.

Traditionally, mentorship has been a one-on-one relationship between a successful professional and an acolyte, and this style continues to help young people excel. Some corporations have developed their own mentorship programs to help young workers feel engaged, but most mentorship opportunities come from organizations like TheNextWomen & other international organizations, such as Million Women Mentors.

However, because of the manifest benefits of mentorship, varieties are developing to suit different lifestyles and mentoring needs. For example, group mentoring, which gathers together one or more adults with a handful of young people, is an advantageous way to encourage and cultivate success. Step Up provides group mentoring opportunities to teenage girls in at-risk communities. Minute Mentoring, founded by Dana Perino, Dee Martin, and Jamie Elise Zuieback, combines the advice and support of group mentoring with the efficiency of speed dating.

Another mentorship style (and one that many feminists argue vehemently for) is career sponsorship. Unlike mentors, career sponsors not only listen to their mentees, providing advice and compassion, but they also have the opportunity and authority to directly advance their mentees up their career ladders. These relationships between powerful business leaders and young upstarts have existed for centuries ― though they went without the “career sponsorship” label ― and today, women should flock to such valuable relationships for the betterment of the gender.

Businesses might consider offering their own mentorship or sponsorship programs, connecting leaders with young workers to create a legacy of success and stability. Such programs are exceedingly appealing to young workers ― especially millennials, who are notoriously difficult to retain for longer than a year or two ― and they are almost completely free, providing nothing but benefit to businesses and workers alike.

The first step in establishing a corporate mentorship program is determining the program’s goals. For example, businesses hoping to attract and retain minority talent in leadership positions should structure the program to include more minority leader mentors. Then, businesses must allow mentors and mentees to schedule time together to review achievements, set goals, and make plans for success. Ideally, the program will mimic the business’s existing workplace culture, enacting guidelines that keep mentors and mentees on a positive track.

No two mentor-mentee relationships are exactly alike, and neither will no two business mentorship programs will be the same. Still, any opportunity for successful women to connect with and influence girls should work to close the gender gap. As long as female leaders are uniting with young women, sharing advice and lending sympathy, encouraging strength and promoting skills, the girls of today have a better chance at being the leaders of tomorrow.