How Mentoring Cultivates Gender Equality In The Workplace

How to find a good mentorMentoring enables women to reach their potential in the workplace

If 1% of the workforce in Australia transferred to jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), $57.4 billion would be added to the country’s GDP, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Part of this workforce is of course, women. To strengthen the country’s economy, women should be encouraged to pursue STEM careers, industries that have traditionally been dominated by men. Mentoring can assist in turning the situation around and enable women to thrive in STEM careers – or any other career for that matter.

Mentoring involves establishing a relationship with someone who is more experienced in their career or in their business to gain advice and insights on professional and personal development. The relationship can either be formal through organisations providing structure for interaction; or it can be informal, where the mentor and mentee exchange experiences over a coffee or lunch meeting. Finding a good mentor before entering the workplace can be beneficial for young women because it can teach them the fundamentals of the professional world. It can also orient women on how to handle workplace politics and how to create networks to aid them in their career advancement.

Mentoring can equip women with skills to negotiate their salary, promote their own achievements and pursue leadership opportunities in their company. This is especially important, as women tend to downplay their achievements and have lower confidence levels than men. Aside from this, mentoring can also provide women with positive feedback and moral support whenever they are facing challenges in their work. It can help boost their confidence, as well as show them areas for improvement in order to maximise their potential in their chosen career.

Female mentors can offer more to women’s career advancement

Though a mentor can either be male or female, a female mentor can assist in helping young women thrive in their career. A female mentor serves as a role model. A female mentor occupying a position of power can build up the confidence of a young, female employee and prove to her that climbing the corporate ladder is possible.

In general, female mentors can help mentees find the delicate balance between work and outside work, especially if they have children. They understand how emotional intelligence and logic plays into a woman’s decision-making process, and can provide advice and their support accordingly. Furthermore, female mentors are more likely to use their intuition to encourage mentees to open up about their personal and professional challenges and how to address them.

Women mentors can also help their mentees advance in their career through sponsorship. Female mentors that hold leadership positions in organisations can serve as testimonies regarding the potential of women. They can build the case for companies on promoting women whenever they agree to sponsor their mentees and speak up on their behalf regarding their skills and achievements. This is powerful for women to help cultivate gender equality in the corporate world.


Judge me on my performance not my gender

It will take more than a change of government to change the narrative for women from saying “Don’t judge me on my gender, judge me on my performance.

And female jockey Michelle Payne may just be the person to do just that.

With her glorious victory as the jockey leading Prince of Penzance into history, not only did she give sisterhood a shot in the arm, she has stood up and out as a young, audacious female leader who has no illusions about the quality of female representation both on and off the track.

Her story of hardship and trial, coupled with love and support by her family has clearly demonstrated a strong mindset is more important than gender and gender is not what is important.

There are FIVE lessons businesses can learn from Michelle, demonstrating the strength of a mindset will ultimately reign triumphantly over gender.

  1. Do the work and identify the tangible and intangible blindspots in organisations, so gender or unconscious bias can once and for all be put on the corporate Agenda not just a meeting Agenda.
  2. Where there is ambiguity around what people really want and are prepared to commit in regards to a formal inclusive gender policy, encourage everyone to become an active contributor to the conversation by going company-wide in blogs, meetings, intranet, and in championing groups.
  3. If people only engage in superficial conversations, educate them by immersion into other experiences, broadening their perspectives and understanding. Change their mind by changing their experience.
  4. Showcase global best practice demonstrating commercial value of gender equality and consequences of still operating with a mentality of the dark ages.
  5. Call behaviours out loud if you feel people are loosening their standards or are just bystanders in this conversation.

If Michelle Payne had allowed those who did not believe a female could ride with the same expertise as a male or could represent the integrity of the Melbourne Cup, she would not have followed her dream and passion.

If you are still unsure about whether or not gender balance is important for your business, ask yourself if any of the leaders you admire got to where they are just on their gender or, if in fact passion and dreams played an integral part in winning.

If the answer is yes, then you follow the FIVE steps above and close the gender gap.

If the answer is no, then perhaps consider a monastery, convent, or ashram where silence is golden.

Ricky Nowak is a high energy and dynamic Certified Corporate Trainer, Workplace Assessor and Behind Closed Doors Facilitator whose 25 years of corporate experience makes training sessions come alive with real learning. She is passionate about developing authentic business leaders and inspires the participants to contribute comfortably as she connects and communicates naturally with them.

Listening – it’s the hardest skill to master

Do you ask good questions?  How easy is it for you to listen to the answers?  Guaranteed you will be distracted by your own thoughts, biases, feelings and opinions therefore you will only hear what you want to hear.

You will often be thinking about your next move or what you want to say next, or you may second guess where the other party might be leading you. To listen effectively you need to be disciplined and give your full attention to the speaker.

Active listening

By paying attention to the speaker – both to their verbal and non-verbal cues, you will be able to ask good questions and make informed assumptions about what the speaker is saying or what isn’t being said.

Give your full attention

Keep focussed on the speaker and avoid letting your attention wander.  Important pieces of information can be missed if you do not remain alert and engaged. This prevents you asking a question on what has already been explained and helps form open questions you can ask the speaker.

An easy tool during a business conversation is to jot down/type one to two words on different points to remind you of what question you will ask once the speaker completes what they are saying.  It also helps you if are asked to do a vote of thanks at the end of a presentation.  This will ensure your mind remains focused on the topic and main messages.

Confirm your understanding

Active listening and asking questions will ensure you understand what the speaker has said.  An effective tool is to summarise the information you hear, in your own words.   You can also seek clarification.   An example of a summary question is, ‘In summary, what you want from me is to…is that correct?’