The women who inspire us in life aren’t always those with high profiles and slick makeovers. I, like many, was inspired by my mother. I now realise she wasn’t merely my mum but a role model and a mentor. She guided me to think for myself, listen to my intuition, reject limits others imposed upon me, and to reach out a hand to others less fortunate.
Mum did what women and mothers have been doing for millennia. It worked in that world and in those times, and women successfully developed other women who succeeded at their role in life. While many things haven’t changed, many have and the roles women fulfil now are more varied. As a result, we need different role models and mentors to help women aspire and succeed.
Role models are great, but mentorship is where the rubber hits the road. Female mentors help inspiration stick, they build confidence, and help women succeed.
Same gender role models are more important to women than they are for men. I doubt many of us need research to convince us of this; it’s one of those truths you ‘know’. I know it.
Here’s the rub: we need more women to actively mentor others. ‘Who, me?’ Yes, you. You’ve got something to offer another woman. Every woman who has experienced the changes in women’s rights over the past few decades has something to offer.
‘I’d love to, if only I could fit it in’ I hear you answer. We’re all energy and time poor doing the life juggle trying to fit everything in. Don’t fear, there’s good news. Helping someone else through mentoring helps you. The benefits include greater self-confidence and an enhanced sense of purpose as a result of the legacy you leave with your mentee.
At its heart mentoring is about building relationships which can reduce stress, improve health, and may even help you live longer. It’s good for your career too. A 2015 study found mentors have greater job satisfaction, improved relationships and career success.
I know how impactful being mentored is. My life and career trajectory changed because the sole female executive in my organisation shared time and wisdom with me. To help someone else merely by being myself and sharing my experience and wisdom is the most personally rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
Recently I helped a young woman who was deeply unhappy in her organisation because it wasn’t supporting her professionally or with the flexibility she needs as a mother of two. Her confidence was at a low ebb and was getting in the way of her attempts to change jobs. As she shared and learned, her confidence grew – and so did mine.
She’s off and running now and is very happy in a new job working for a great boss. Most satisfying for me was the gratitude from her husband; she’s happier, her girls are happier, and so is he.
That’s an important legacy from a small thing.
Jacqui Alder is a respected HR executive, writer, and mentor to women.
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