Why Aren’t We Mentoring Women?

Study after study shows that over 50% of the Millennial generation would like to have a mentor that spans both their private life and their public work realm. Yet, in the workplace, I find that most organizations do not have a mentoring program and if they do, it is not thriving. What is going on?

There are many reasons to make the case for mentoring, including:

  1. Gets employees engaged
  2. It helps to relieve stress and anxiety, especially for new employees or those in new roles
  3. Creates connections that help people thrive in their work life and at home

These are just the tip of the iceberg. In HR, the case for mentoring shows low employee turnover, increased motivation, increased employee satisfaction, lower conflict and even lower number of sick days taken. There are countless benefits to the morale and psyche of the employee.

Even in churches, the idea of discipline and helping someone grow spiritually has finally taken root. I believe that people are taking mentoring more seriously, especially with the increasing number of baby boomers who wish to impart some of their amazing knowledge to help others grow.

In the old days, apprenticeship used to be the way to pass on tricks of the trade and teach a young person how to take over the business. People used to groom the next generation for decades and bring them along in the ways of the world. Today, that idea has gone by the wayside for most occupations. It still exists in some areas, namely medicine, the arts, and technical jobs, but it is more of the exception than the rule. Men, for some reason seem to take mentoring in stride, allowing succession planning to take place. They also are open with networking and making business connections.

In my 20+ years of working in business, I have not found that to be the case for women. Women for some reason seem to have a harder time sharing their contacts and information. They find other women to be more of a challenge to their authority and thus will not take another under their wing. I don’t find many senior level women welcoming younger women to an open exchange of ideas. Not all women are averse to this, mind you, but again this has not been my own experience.

On the contrary, I find that men are more willing to share ideas, give you advice and support and help you make connections – even as a woman.

I don’t think all the reasons for the failed woman to woman connection are sinister. I think they are a reflection of what is going on in the workforce and that they may not even be aware of the circumstances.  In my last blog, I mentioned that women make up almost 50% of the workforce today, but that less than 10% are in the Executive level of organizations. That is one of the biggest reasons why I haven’t found many women mentoring. Many of them aren’t even in higher positions. Typically, you will find men there and thus, men are more readily accessible than women.

Another reason may be due to added duties in traditional women’s roles: workplace role, wife, mother, care provider, single bread-winner, etc. When there are home duties that are not shared with anyone else, it can become a massive burden for a woman to take on yet another role as mentor. This is supported by a study done by DDI in 2014 that found over 65% of women never had a mentor and a whopping 75% said they would not mentor due to lack of time due to family obligations.

So, what can YOU do?

If you are a woman reading this article, I encourage you to join our Community of Christian Women‘s Group in OKC. It is a group that is getting ready to launch a mentoring  program in the Fall of 2018. If you don’t want to join a group, think about the work relationships you have and see if there is someone who might be interested in a mentor. You could also take the first step and ask someone you admire to be your mentor – it’s a sweet compliment and a great way to establish a positive relationship – even if she doesn’t have time to be your mentor.
Steps to take :

1. Meet monthly! It doesn’t have to be a weekly thing

2. Meet during the workday. If you have time to go have a cup of coffee… You have time to be mentored or be a mentor to someone

3. Start small – you don’t have to join a big formal program with a workbook. Just meet, talk & get to know one another first

4. Join a group that supports and recognizes the value of mentoring (like CCBW for women and CBMC for men).

5. Ask me if you don’t know where to start in your organization! I’d love to help! 

The bottom line is to start somewhere – start in at your workplace, start in your neighborhood, start in your church group… GO and  reach out to someone. You will be blessed far greater than you think and you will find that all those reasons against being a mentor to someone else will melt away.



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International Women’s Day

 

 

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Today is International Women’s Day was established in the early 1900’s to raise awareness of Women’s rights and issues around the world. With the technology we have today, it is much easier to address and raise that awareness. However, things still do not remain equal when it comes to gender bias, especially in the workplace.

Here are some statistics about women in the workplace that you may not know:

  1. It will take at least 100 years to close the wage gap between men & women in the US (money.cnn.com)
  2. As of Dec. 2017, the US fell to spot #49 in equal pay (mainly due to companies that don’t provide paid maternity leave) (www.pewresearch.org)
  3. Over 42% have experienced gender discrimination at work
  4. Over 22% of women say they have been sexually harassed at work
  5. 1 in 2 women experience discrimination as a result of being on maternity leave or after.
  6. For every dollar a male makes, women earn approximately 80 cents (or less if they are a female minority) (equal payback project).
  7. More than 1 in 8 women live in poverty.
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www.dol.gov

Now for a little bit better news (kind of):

  • In 2017, Women outnumber men for the first time in college: 56% to 44% men (US Dept of Education).
  • There is a substantial effort being made in education for empowering girls
  • Women are Integral to Today’s Workforce
    • There are 74.6 million women in the civilian labor force.
    • Almost 47 percent of U.S. workers are women.
    • More than 39 percent of women work in occupations where women make up at least three-quarters of the workforce.
    • Women own close to 10 million businesses, accounting for $1.4 trillion in receipts.
    • Female veterans tend to continue their service in the labor force: About 3 out of 10 serve their country as government workers.

 

  • Trends in Women’s Employment  over Time
    • Women’s participation in the U.S. labor force has climbed since WWII: from 32.7 percent in 1948 to 56.8 percent in 2016.
    • The range of occupations women workers hold has also expanded, with women making notable gains in professional and managerial occupations. In 2016, more than one in three lawyers was a woman compared to fewer than 1 in 10 in 1974.
    • The unemployment rate for women is currently 4.8 percent, down from a peak of 9.0 percent in November 2010. (Source)

 

There’s still a lot of work to do and each one of us can step in to help another woman. Mentoring, supporting, encouraging women should be a duty for all of us! We can start easily:

  1. start at home – encourage your daughters with positive role models (no, I’m not talking about Pilot Barbie, but about learning about a REAL person like Amelia Earhart).
  2. start in your community – join a positive role model group like the Community of Christian Business Women in OKC!
  3. start at work – meet with women, build peer relationships and succession plan with awareness.

STOP complaining about it. START DOING!

 

Inspire or Expire

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Did you know that to INSPIRE means to BREATHE? My husband is trained as a respiratory therapist and when he was in school, he was always talking about inspiration. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that inspiration is to breathe in and expiration is to breathe out, or to die.

I was getting a presentation ready for the State of Oklahoma on Employee Engagement and what really gets people plugged into an organization’s vision, mission and culture. Being able to INSPIRE others was a theme that emerged from all the research. Inspiring means to motivate others to go out of their comfort zone. It means to stimulate or get people charged up – not just about coming to work day in and day out, but to truly get them to see how their daily work can have a lasting impact on the organization and their community.

Encouraging others is a constant theme for me as I mentor other women in business (see CCBWOKC on Facebook). To be able to breathe life can be daunting… especially on those days that I might be struggling to even get ready in the morning. So how do you do this? How do you inspire others to be something different?

For me, the answer comes through the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word for the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God is “RUACH.” Ruach means wind or breath. It’s an onomatopoeia which means that the word is the same as the sound it makes. This is the same Ruach God breathes into Adam in Genesis 2:7 (KJV)~ And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. The breath of life is the same as the inspiration we should pray for today. God is the same  yesterday, today and tomorrow. He doesn’t change. The same breath he breathed into Adam is the same inspiration you need today.

The way to help others is to share words that bring life to others. As Christians, our speech should always be full of grace, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). By the way, this is the verse I use for the header of my blog! For me, it means that if my words are not glorifying to God and wrapped in love, I should not be speaking them. This is not easy to do!  However, if you become mindful of what you are getting ready to say to someone and think about it for just a second or two, you can quickly evaluate to see if it is tearing down or building up.

Inspiration is to breathe into someone, to encourage, build up and motivate. Let’s focus on doing these things instead of discouraging, tearing down, and hurting. Inspire others so you can be a light in the darkness!

LeadHERship

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What’s the deal with women in power? As a young, driven woman who was just starting out her career,  I made many mistakes and let power get to my head. Some mistakes were small and others could have impacted or even curtailed my career, like the error of not following chain of command in a traditional organization like Campbell Soup Company. Fortunately for me, I had a kind and generous mentor named Chuck Hatz who was able to step in and guide me through management pitfalls.

As I look back on that experience, I realize that not many are blessed to have another give them advice on how to maneuver or even advance on the corporate ladder. In fact, I realized slowly that the ones who were the least helpful in my career path were WOMEN. Before I heap accusations on those women who did not mentor me or even lend a kind word of encouragement, I need to look at my own actions as a manager as well.

When I joined the management ranks, I was a supervisor. I worked mainly with two men, so things were good. When the opportunity to rise higher into a manager’s position, however, the battle lines were drawn and I quickly found out that I didn’t have many friends. In fact, most of my competition were women of equal rank. It was cut throat. I found out after I got the position mainly due to my education, that a woman closest to me had said something personal and derogatory about me to the VP. He thought it to be unprofessional (especially in Human Resources), so he did not even consider her for the position. Her desire to hurt me ended up getting her booted out.

This woman was a colleague. She was someone I had lunch with on a regular basis, so it didn’t rest easy with me. It was around this time that I had been looking at Japanese management traditions of Kaizen (collaborative management) and found that before making any big decision or doing problem solving, they went to their peers individually and got input. I thought that to be a huge waste of time! Why do that when I knew what needed to be done and go do it?

This very thing turned out to be the key in why women were not getting the larger promotions and why there seemed to be a general lack of trust among us. No one wanted to consult with another. All of us were very competitive and sabotaging the other’s efforts. In an attempt to be noticed by Executive management (=men), we were setting each other up for failure and being petty. What an eye-opener for me.

As an HR manager, I knew I could personally do something to change this. Using collaboration and not competition as my incentive, I set about asking the other female management their input on ideas and projects. I was immediately met with distrust, criticism and even sarcasm – what, is this job too difficult for you, that you need to ask for help?

Fortunately, not all of my peers were like this. I found a lifelong friend in Christine who was kind and helpful to me. In addition, I had women in my department who were caring and driven to help others. We formed a small but close-knit team. The easy collaboration in HR training began to be evident as we shared leadership roles. There was a desire to help one another and to share our strengths as a team.Other women began to look to this team as an outreach and support within the organization. Several women began to gain promotions and opportunities to excel, including me.

I share all this to make a point. Until women begin to set aside the competitive nature of business and our own prejudices against other women (she’s not career-minded her clothes are not right, etc), we are not going to be looked at as serious contenders for executive level positions. Women do not have to set aside our feminine qualities of being able to talk to one another, to empathize, to nurture relationships in order to get ahead. We don’t have to be so driven that we get a calloused edge that doesn’t take others into account. In a culture that feeds the “me, me, me” ego, climbing the corporate ladder means stepping on other women’s heads in order to see our own star rise.

As a Christian, this is made even more clear to me by Jesus Christ’s teachings, especially when he said “So the last shall be first, and the first last ” Matthew 20:16. That doesn’t leave much room for corporate ambition, does it? What one doesn’t realize right away is the blessing you get from helping others and putting your desires off for a minute or two. Getting promotions was nice (I won’t lie!) but it wasn’t nice to not have a peer to peer network of women you could trust. Getting recognition was nice, but I didn’t realize that it meant that I took it from others and gave no one else credit. When we started sharing and helping one another, we began to celebrate each other’s contributions and victories. Our enthusiasm, relationships and strength multiplied.

Bill Gates said that “As we look ahead to the next century, LEADERS will be those who EMPOWER others.” So what steps can we take today to help those around us? This Forbes article gives a great list of strengths women have that naturally lend themselves to helping others. In addition, I have a few to add that can apply to both men and women:

  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Look for opportunities to help fill the gap.

  2. Ask for the worst assignment. Your colleagues will thank you (& think you’re nuts!) and your bosses will appreciate you.

  3. Be willing to help not only at work, but outside work. When you see your co-worker as a mom, wife, daughter, or in a different role, you will gain respect and learn to set aside any prejudice you may have formed against them.

  4. Pray for them and for yourself to be placed in situations where you have to serve others.

We need to build each other up – both men and women. When you break others down, you get torn down right beside them. There is collateral damage. The true hallmark of a leader is when you help to develop others’ skills and strengthen them. Along the way, your own skills will be strengthened, built and sharpened.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Careless Trust

Yesterday, I was doing training for a private company on the merits of Mentoring in the workplace. It seemed like every conversation led back to building trust. If you cannot trust your employer or co-workers, you will not have a productive workplace. In fact, it would be quite dysfunctional. In a study done by the founders of Airbnb (an online Craigslist type of site for renting out your home to complete strangers who are traveling), they found that in 1972, 46% of people said that others were generally trustworthy. Today, that number is down to 32%, resulting in a lower trust of everyone – from identity theft, to fraud, to organizational ethical situations like Enron and Sony Executive emails.

There’s no doubt then that employees don’t want to share personal information with others and make deeper connections. But that’s where things get lost. We complain about how management doesn’t understand my needs or lament about lack of communication. The complaining doesn’t stop there either. It trickles down into a lack of trust for your spouse or family relationships. Let’s face it: there is a strong correlation between personal growth and trust.

I love Focus on the Family’s article on building trust in a marriage. I think those rules also apply to the workplace. They said that the Hebrew word Batach (baw-takh’) means TRUST. Not just that, but it has more meanings: bold, careless, confident, secure. You can see the application in Psalm 91:2

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

When the psalmist uses Trust here, he is speaking of being careless. This is literally without a care! When was the last time you were without a care or worry? Seems incredible, but that is what true trust means- when we can be at peace in our relationship and not worry that someone is going to talk behind our back or break a confidence at work. When we can trust our spouse to go on a business trip and not worry about them breaking  their vow of marriage, when we can trust that our children are really where they say they are with their friends.

I believe there is a formula for building trust. I call it “The Three C’s.”

Credibility

Confidentiality

Consistency

Credibility – speak the TRUTH. Some take this to mean blurt out what you are really thinking. Please don’t do that. We are called to speak the truth in LOVE (Eph 4:15).

Confidentiality-Keep your mouth shut. So difficult and tempting to share, but that sharing that seems harmless can turn into vicious gossip in about 20 minutes… And then come back around the office to bite you in the behind

Consistency – I had a boss once who was all over the place. She was sweet one day and sour the next. She would lavishly praise your talent and then tear you up for the same thing. It was stressful to be around her. You never knew what you were going to get from one day to the next. Being consistent means being fair. Give benefit of the doubt. Allow your relationship to flourish by building and encouraging, even while giving constructive criticism.

These are not easy to do, but then anything that’s worthwhile takes time. When you start trying to raise your awareness and practice trusting others, while building trust, you will find that you will become careless… In a good way!