Women and Mentors
The Women in Family Business Peer Group at the Conway Center met to discuss the importance of mentors and the role it plays for women and in family business.
Women are great mentors. Whether it be the role of teacher, friend, or guide – a strong, open relationship is essential. Women mentors need to be cautious however not to cross the line of being too mothering and nurturing. This natural tendency should instead be replaced with empowering and building self-esteem for the mentee to provide them with the tools to succeed on their own, and to make connections or offer resources that could be useful.
A recent Forbes Magazine article outlines the following six ways women most effectively find and benefit from a mentoring relationship:
- Clarify your ideal mentor. Have a goal in mind – is it a specific challenge such as polishing a skill or do you seek a more general sounding board and advocate to give you advice over the long haul?
- Find the courage to ask. If you value the advice of someone you admire, be brave and ask for it. You needn’t be overly formal, just ask if they can meet with you a few times and let the relationship evolve.
- Set expectations up front. It is likely that anyone whose advice you value is in high demand and busy, so clearly convey what you’d like to learn from them to make the best use of their time.
- Look beyond the obvious. As a woman, don’t shy away from male mentors – especially in a male dominated industry. Mentoring also doesn’t have to arise from business, you can find mentors outside of the workplace such as at the Conway Center, church, or even in a very good friend. Finally, don’t be limited by age. Mentoring comes in all forms, you are never too old or too young!
- Cultivate a two-way exchange. The relationship does not only have to benefit the mentee. You can reciprocate by supporting your mentor in various ways such as appreciation on social media, nominating them for an award, or referring business their way.
- Mentor others even if you doubt what you offer. Women tend to be less confident in their abilities compared to men. Even if you don’t think you’ve ‘made it’ yet, don’t undervalue your insights, your work/family balance and business savvy that got you where you are today. Mentoring is a way of ‘paying it forward’ so making the time to support others to succeed can be very important to someone just starting out or who are making a career transition.
The family dynamics in a family business can sometimes be very challenging and lonely, and you need to be protective of any dysfunction that would hurt it. Peer mentoring like the Conway Center peer groups are very important and provide a way of sharing with those in similar situations. Seeking out an individual mentor who is discreet, honest, and generous to work through solutions with you to protect your business can be life-changing. In turn, the many rewards gained from serving as a mentor in seeing the growth and success of the mentee can be equally as fulfilling.
Bea Wolper is President of the law firm of Emens & Wolper Law Firm, Columbus, Ohio, where her practice focuses on succession planning, estate planning, oil and gas law, contracts and the buying and selling of assets and businesses, with an emphasis on family-owned businesses. She is also the co-founder of the Conway Center for Family Business.
Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash