Several years ago governments, non-profit women's groups and corporations latched onto the idea that mentorship programs were going to be the magic fix for getting more women into leadership roles.
Despite the research that showed that structural changes like flexibility, 4-day work weeks, better HR processes and pay transparency would create real change for women, they somehow decided that mentorship was going to be the thing.
The problem with formal mentorship programs is that they are fueled by women's unpaid labour and rarely work. Why? Because forced relationships, just like blind dates, just don't work. If you DO find someone you like, it should be a huge win - but finding that person requires an immense amount of time... time that women don't have.
The other issue is that mentorship is not sponsorship. Just because someone is a mentor does not mean they are going to introduce you to their network, support your application for a promotion or do anything at all. To be fair, to expect that of someone you just met is unfair.
So, if the answer to more women in leadership roles isn't mentorship, then WHAT is it?
It is community.
As a hiring manager, most of my referrals came from men. I tried to figure out why that was, and what I came up with was that I have RARELY had anyone bring their mentee to me to be hired, but I did regularly have people recommend people who they have a professional/personal relationship with. It became clear that women lacked those professional and personal relationships that went deeper than pure mentorship that men seemed to have. Creating a powerful network was the best thing women could do to land those leadership roles.
It was the reason I started the Collective. As an experiment, I brought together 100 women across industry, role and location with the understanding that if we were all there for the same reason - to build a network and support each other - then magic could happen.
Investing less than 10 hours a month on connecting with other women, showing up for each other, coffee chatting and getting a bit personal throws open doors to jobs, freelance gigs, intros to companies and more.
So, instead of seeking a Fairy God'mentor', find yourself a community of women who you can build strong connections with, who will bring your name up in rooms, and will give you those referrals.
Allison Venditti is a Career Coach, Founder of Moms at Work, mom of 3, winter bike rider, lover of Star Wars, HR expert and advocate for working moms and pay transparency. (I am also a hyperconnector and get excited at the possibility of adding you to my network.)
Allison was named The Globe and Mail Report on Business Top 50 Changemakers 2022 and is a regular speaker and media expert with over 100 interviews in 2022. Find out more about how you can work with us and create change for working women everywhere by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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