7 Steps to support female mentorship at work

Here are seven ways to support women in the workplace through mentorship.

Smridhi Malhotra

Published on 

August 16, 2022

Updated on 

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Women need supportive mentorship that can help them climb the corporate ladder. Workplace mentoring programs for women provide mentors to employees who act as supporters and role models for them in the organization. These mentors can advise and guide other women and inspire them to work smart and achieve more.  

The sheer lack of female representation at top companies is appalling despite some gains over the last several decades at workplaces. Women still experience many challenges, including pay inequity, advancement barriers, and family-life imbalance. A female mentorship program provides a platform that can help women employees.

Companies with female mentorship programs have seen some significant changes and improvements in the career life of women. Employees with mentors get promoted 5 more often than non-mentored employees.

Let us look at the seven steps to support female mentorship at work. The steps provided here are not exhaustive. However, it can give you a good guideline. These are best practices that have proven to benefit companies.

Raise awareness about unconscious bias

The initial step toward changing attitudes is to become mindful of our beliefs and thoughts. Mentors can be role models by engaging in healthy behaviors and mature practices that overcome unconscious biases. Mentors should make accurate and fair evaluations based on the intrinsic value of the staff and not on outward appearances.

Recognizing one’s biases will allow the mentors to manage their relationship with the mentees. The subordinate should also realize that sometimes the implicit biases of their mentors or co-workers can take time to change. Or in other cases, mentors may not be aware of any discriminatory behavior in them and should be made aware of it.

The entire organization must come together to understand the gender-biased behavior they exhibit. A bias awareness campaign at the start of launching the mentorship program can go a long way in overcoming such behavior. Have a few workshops to change such practices and behaviors that exhibit these biases.

The human resources department can develop monthly schemes to reward the best behavior congruent to bias awareness. That way, the whole company is involved in the mentorship program instead of just the mentors. Leaders can set an example by being the mentors in the first batch.

Work towards building healthy relationship with mentees

Mentees should have an honest conversation and convey their challenges and goals to build a robust mentor-mentee relationship. Mentors can then give focused advice and design their mentorship approach to better fit the needs of the female mentees. That way, they can start an impactful mentoring program effectively.

Some women may feel a bit hesitant to advocate for themselves. Hence mentors should not sit and wait for opportunities to mentor subordinates. In other words, do not wait for the female workers to approach you first. Mentors, both men and women, can come to mentees and ask them whether they could benefit from a mentor.

An honest and proactive approach to the mentor-mentee relationship is key to building a supportive mentorship program where women will feel comfortable and inclusive. Such a company-wide welcoming program is paramount to its success.

Not every woman worker is comfortable sitting across the table facing a senior mentor and discussing the challenges they face at the workplace. Therefore, you should give mentees options of either working offline or online or a hybrid of both. The HR department employees can develop a structure for such a program.

Provide optimal infrastructure support

Workers are bound to have hardware problems in the first few days at the workplace. Software usage questions are also inevitable. Therefore, including a mentorship plan for new women employees is an integral part of the onboarding process or the induction program.

Providing technical know-how and infrastructure support for computer usage is a massive part of the mentorship, especially for newcomers who work remotely. Providing guidebooks and short instructions can be a great help during their onboarding at the new workplace. The focus should be on the most frequently faced problems concerning computer use and how to solve it. For example, a common problem for employees who work on Mac is computer storage memory. Providing them with some memory cleaning guides can come in handy. It will help the new co-worker fix the issue remotely at the press of a few buttons.

Catering to the needs of the new employees, mentors can help them integrate into the workforce seamlessly by reminding them where to get help if they get stuck. It is the hallmark of an excellent mentor-mentee relationship to get the new hires to total productivity. If they can do this in the shortest time possible, it helps the company benefit as well.

Help mentees overcome challenges

A good woman’s mentorship program can bring fundamental changes to the company. It starts with minor modifications, and small changes can eventually turn into significant changes. The need to create a good mentorship program should begin by working to overcome the top challenges. The challenges can differ from company to company.

You may be part of a small company that does not show much interest in a mentorship program. Try to understand where the hesitation comes from if you face leadership challenges. If cost is the issue, reassure them that it is free to launch a program on Together. If the concern is that workers will be spending time away from the job, consider setting meetings during lunchtime. Be open to adjusting as you go along.

Create a safe place

Design the mentorship program as a safe place to share challenges and issues. The mentees may feel uncomfortable discussing personal-level problems that impact their productivity negatively or something that involves management or other group members. To handle this objectively, give them the option to share it anonymously.

You can use tools such as Google forms and employee surveys to share your suggestions and stories to the group anonymously. Another idea is to pick a person that others can contact who can communicate these unpleasant situations on behalf of the members.

Additionally, if hosting the meetings in person, have them in a private area behind closed doors. If hosting the meeting virtually, make sure not to record it. Nevertheless, you should keep the experiences shared within the program confidential. If you need the management’s intervention, handle it respectfully.

The idea is to create a safe place for the mentorship members to share experiences so they can rectify them as soon as possible. They should not be vilified or disparaged on account of sharing their experiences. Make it a safe place for female employees to contribute positively and succeed in their careers.

Mutually beneficial to both mentor and mentee

The mentor should know they can potentially influence the coming generation of working females. They are proteges and not competition. Developing great women leaders will positively affect the organization and build a more harmonious culture where mentees can thrive.

A mentorship relationship can be vibrant and mutually beneficial. Healthy mentorship shows mentees that they have the necessary skills to progress in their careers. For this, mentors have to be accessible and welcoming to their mentees. They have to instill confidence in mentees that there is a solution to every problem and you can lead the way in finding the solution to the problems they face.  A mentor will create a reputation where employees will want to come and work for them.

Interestingly, female mentors do not have the same inhibition to advocate for or promote others. Females often can shout out to other females’ efforts and skills. Women mentors can thus take advantage of it if the mentee’s successes are seen by others and themselves equally as their successes too.

Make mentorship programs an integral part of business strategy

Running a mentorship program for female employees is proving to be more and more successful worldwide. These businesses experience a myriad of benefits from mentorship. Companies that have not yet implemented a mentorship program should consider it a good business strategy.

A mentorship program to be successful should not be viewed as a zero-sum game, meaning a scheme where only one party benefits. A good mentorship should be a nurturing relationship between a mentor and mentee that can benefit both. A mentee’s success should be a mentor’s success too.

Wrapping up

It is gratifying to see women with workplace challenges succeed after effective mentorship. They exude greater confidence at the workplace because the mentor-mentee relationships empower them. These programs bridge the once-existent gap between women workers and senior leaders who are primarily men. Hopefully, more businesses will run mentorship programs in some form and benefit the women workforce, who are the backbone of society.

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