Four Successful Women Who Benefited From Mentorship

Successful Women Who Have Benefited From Mentorship“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires,” said the writer, William Arthur Ward, on mentorship. Yes, a good mentor’s guidance and encouragement can be invaluable to success. Mentors give opportunities to mentees to reflect on their own goals and continue their professional development. Consider the following successful women who have benefited greatly from mentorship and who attribute their success in life to their mentors.

Sally Singer has been instrumental in the development of Vogue magazine where she worked as a fashion news director. She then became editor-in-chief at T: The New York Times Style Magazine. She later returned to Vogue as a creative director, overseeing the web version of the popular publication. Sally attributes her success to three female mentors: “The first is a woman by the name of Margaret Simmons of Travel Holiday magazine…the biggest lesson I learned from Maggie, was to have incredibly high standards, and to never think you have to compromise…the second is Sara Bershtel…she was an editor at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux…the interesting and important lesson she taught me was that you have to be able to think horizontally…third is Anna Wintour. She has taught me to always be true to myself; to fight for what I see.”

Anglo-Scottish actress, performance artist and model, Tilda Swinton, also circumvented the challenges of being a woman in the film industry through the lessons she learnt from her mentor. Her success as an actress is evident from her nomination for her roles in mainstream movies such as The Deep End and Michael Clayton, in addition to her successful collaborations with fashion designers Viktor & Rolf. Of her mentors, Swinton recalls: “My tutor at university was an ancient lady with a beard, Margot Heinemann. She taught literature and was an amazing intellectual. When I’d go to her and say, ‘I haven’t done my essay,’ she would ask, ‘Why not?’ And I’d say, ‘Well, I’d been busy doing this.’ And she’d say, ‘Write an essay about what you’ve been doing.’ She was a really cool woman, and a wise woman.”

Somalian fashion model, actress and entrepreneur Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid, (professionally known as Iman), has been a pioneer in the field of ethnic cosmetics. Her rise to the top of this industry was a result of the role her mentor, Rose Marie Bravo, current vice chairman at Burberry, played in her life. Iman says: “I’ve always believed that women should find other women to mentor them. She’s mentored me through every move I’ve made with my cosmetic company. She’s told me what not to do, and when I needed to meet people that might be influential for me, she introduced me. It’s been amazing.”

Current CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, steadily rose to become a successful business woman from her humble beginnings in Wisconsin. Being a female computer scientist in a male dominated industry was not easy, but she overcame this challenge and became Google’s 20th employee in 1999. She attributes listening as a key skill for being a good leader, a skill she learnt from her mentor, Eric Schmidt. Her mentor was the former CEO of Novell and is the current Executive Chairman of Google-owned Alphabet Inc . He taught her that her “job as an executive is to set a vision, listen to the team and get things out of the way so they can run at that vision as fast as they can.” Following her mentor’s advice, Mayer made listening to her employees a top priority and this helped her become the effective and successful leader she is today.

These women have risen to the top of their respective industries through the inspiration they received from their mentors, all of whom helped each to harness their skills. As Paulo Coelho writes in The Witch of Portobello: “What is a teacher…someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows”, mentors inspire individuals to realise their full potential. At Behind Closed Doors, we recognise the importance of helping women find suitable mentors and thus are committed to finding the right mentor for you. We’ll be happy to address any questions you may have regarding mentoring, programs and membership.

Tell us about your experiences with mentoring, good and bad.


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