How to Use a Mentor

Caroline Howard, deputy online editor of ForbesWoman asks an infrequently asked question: Do you know how to use a mentor? Here's my reply.
What great questions, Caroline. Especially the "how to use a mentor" question. It's a question not frequently asked.

Based on my research the vast majority of advice about mentoring over-focuses on WHY to get a mentor, the advice TO GET a mentor and advice on the PROTOCOL of a mentoring relationship (such as follow-through, have an agenda, etc.). There is very little written about how to use a mentor. That's why Leading Women's mentoring programs, my presentations and writing focus on how to use a mentor.

We focus on using mentors to fill in The Missing 33%™ and getting a slice of P.I.E. mentoring not just a piece of C.A.K.E. mentoring.

Using a mentor to fill in the missing 33% of the success equation means asking for help and experiences that enable you acquire or enhance your business, strategic and financial acumen. Women get far too little advice about the importance of this in building careers (our research indicates only about 2% of women get advice about the importance of understanding the business of your business.)

Asking a mentor to serve up a slice of pie P.I.E. means asking to learn about the fundamentals of business Performance, ways of enhancing your executive Image and gaining Exposure to the right kinds of opportunities, people and how decisions are made. When a mentor serves up a piece of C.A.K.E., she is helping you build Confidence, giving feedback about your strengths/Aptitude or advice to help with situations that are testing your positive Attitude, he is providing "K"onnections to Resources and Encouraging you to reach for an opportunity you might never have imagined. Read more here: CAKE and PIE

Most women receive, give and talk about C.A.K.E. mentoring. And we all know that C.A.K.E is a real treat. But, most successful men and women (including many of the F500 women CEOs) have received P.I.E. mentoring! The more women who know how to use mentors for P.I.E. mentoring and filling in the Missing 33%, the greater the numbers of women who will advance in their careers. This is one of my messages and the ways women can build thriving careers with no ceiling and no walls.
At Leading Women, we want more women to understand how to use a mentor, not just why. That's why our mentoring program is free for GOLD Members and is structured to help with The Missing 33% and P.I.E. mentoring.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
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Synapses Firing at Random

I use this image not only because this blog includes several disconnected thoughts, but also because The Female Brain is an intriguing, important and useful book.

What's With the Movies?
In the past several weeks I've watched 4 movies - 3 about amazing women (Coco Before Chanel, Catherine the Great, Young Victoria) and one about an amazing man (Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius). I've noticed something disturbing.

The 3 movies about fashionista Coco Chanel, Russia's Empress Catherine and Britain's Queen Victoria, start in their youth and END right before the women step onto the path to historic significance. We who would love to know more about the path to great accomplishments are absolutely left in the dark (although the paths to great love are well illumined).

Not true in the movie about golfing legend Bobby Jones. We meet him as a sickly young boy and follow him through the triumphs of winning major tournaments.

In these cases, Hollywood has shied away from shining light on the women's paths to greatness. This isn't an accident, nor is it an exception to the rule. Movie messages to women are most often about being sexy and finding love - nothing wrong with that, except that it's incomplete.

AND this leads me to wonder why Malcolm Gladwell is blind to one of the most important and obvious factors in the creation of Outliers...

The Blind Spot in Outliers
The major premise in Outliers: The Story of Success (with which I agree) is that external factors play a huge role in an individual's rise to greatness. Gladwell uses many professions to illustrate why this is true. He explores the role of birth month, culture, generation, family background, economic status in producing successful sports figures, authors and pilots. What's missing?

Nearly all of the examples he cites are men and yet the factor of being born male is not stripped out for examination.

Thank You Mary Sammons
In June, Mary Sammons will step down as CEO of RiteAid. In my book, No Ceiling, No Walls and in my presentations on mentoring I use several lessons from her path to the C-suite.

Thank you, Mary for the lessons you're leaving for women who want to build careers with no ceilings and no walls.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
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Equality is Still a Myth

What do you do when you see a speed bump in the road? You slow down, right? If you don't slow down, you're likely to do damage to some unseen part of your car. What you don't do is STOP driving. You see the impediment, but you don't give it power to deter you from your destination. It's especially helpful if you've been on the road before and know to look for it or if the bump is made distinctly visible.

This metaphor has been on my mind lately when I reflect on young women in the workforce and hit me again as I read this Newsweek article, Are We There Yet?. It's written by young women of Newsweek who look back at the struggle for women's equality at the venerable mag and realize that while things have improved - no, we aren't there yet.

So, what has that to do with speed bumps? Well, if you don't know to look for one and speed right over it, something bad can happen...and that's what I see happening to young women in the workforce today. They have no idea to be on the lookout for the inevitable and insidious sexism in today's workplace.
"Douglas describes those mixed messages as "enlightened sexism": the idea that because of all the gains women have made, biases that once would have been deemed sexist now get brushed off. Young women, consequently, are left in a bind: they worry they'll never be taken as seriously as the guys, yet when they're given the opportunity to run the show, they balk. A recent Girl Scouts study revealed that young women avoid leadership roles for fear they'll be labeled "bossy"; another survey found they are four times less likely than men to negotiate a first salary. As it turns out, that's for good reason: a Harvard study found that women who demand higher starting salaries are perceived as "less nice," and thus less likely to be hired. "This generation has had it ingrained in them that they must thrive within a 'yes, but' framework: Yes, be a go-getter, but don't come on too strong. Yes, accomplish, but don't brag about it," says Rachel Simmons, author of The Curse of the Good Girl. "The result is that young women hold themselves back, saying, 'I shouldn't say this, ask for this, do this—it will make me unlikable, a bitch, or an outcast.'

"Somewhere along the road to equality, young women like us lost their voices. So when we marched into the workforce and the fog of subtle gender discrimination, it was baffling and alien. Without a movement behind us, we had neither the language to describe it nor the confidence to call it what it was."
These women (Jessica Bennett, Jesse Ellison and Sarah Ball) deserve a round of applause and a wide audience among their peers. Alerting a new generation to the speed bumps doesn't mean giving them power to stop a career trajectory, but it sure makes it possible to slow down and figure out what to do about the "fog of subtle gender discrimination" (and sometimes the razor sharp edge of it as well) that surrounds us all.

They've written a great article! Take a look. And, if you're a young woman in the workforce, find your own version of the Women's Exchange, talk over lunch and listen to each other. Equality is still a myth - knowing this creates the conditions where you can tap the power of collaboration for career success. Recognize the speed bumps, but don't give them power!

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
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Generational Challenge for Women's Networks + More

The Vancouver Sun reports on the concept of "gender fatigue"
"Women bosses are no longer unusual in the corporate world, where many top-flight companies see gender and diversity programs as a "must-have."

Flexible working, parental leave, mentoring and women's networks have become the norm in many businesses.

But gender diversity's move into the mainstream gives an impression that gender issues at work have been "solved," which makes more subtle discrimination harder to spot and can even disadvantage young women starting their careers.

"Younger women find it difficult to connect to women's networks in the workplace, because they view these networks as something that belonged to their mother's generation," said Elisabeth Kelan, a lecturer in Work and Organisations in the Department of Management at King's College in London.

Kelan describes this situation as "gender fatigue," where people in the workplace lack the energy to tackle afresh something that they no longer see as a problem."

This reminds me of the 27 year old woman who said to me without any realization of the irony, "Where I work there is no discrimination and I'm not disadvantaged," and then minutes later in the same conversation, "I don't know why I didn't get the job that Jim got. I was definitely more qualified."

So internal (and external) networks face a challenge of how to make their relevance crystal clear. And older women members of this network can take an active role in mentoring younger women and helping them understand the value of connecting with other women.

This assumes that the networks are actually focusing on information and activities that add value to women's lives and careers. At Leading Women, we do several things.
  1. Introduce successful women as role models.
  2. Filling the Missing 33% of the career success equation for women
  3. Supporting the alignment and relevance of internal women's networks.
COMMENTS Welcome: How is your company or network ensuring relevance for all generations?

If you haven't seen it, please take a look at the wonderful Female Factor video from the International Herald Tribune.

UPDATE: I just read Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's address to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Notable comments:
"Women are the majority of the world’s farmers, but are often forbidden from owning the land they tend to every day, or accessing the credit they need to invest in those farms and make them productive.
Women care for the world’s sick, but women and girls are less likely to get treatment when they are sick.
Women raise the world’s children, but too often receive inadequate care when they give birth. And as a result, childbirth remains a leading cause of death and injury to women worldwide.
Women rarely cause armed conflicts, but they always suffer their consequences. And when warring sides sit at one table to negotiate peace, women are often excluded, even though it is their future and their children’s future that is being decided.
Though many countries have passed laws to deter violence against women, it remains a global pandemic. Women and girls are bought and sold to settle debts and resolve disputes. They are raped as both a tactic and a prize of armed conflict. They are beaten as punishment for disobedience and as a warning to other women who might assert their rights. And millions of women and girls are enslaved in brothels, forced to work as prostitutes, while police officers pocket bribes and look the other way."
"The other day I heard The New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, who has done so much to bring to a wide audience the stories of individual women who are working and suffering because of conditions under which they are oppressed. And he said, you know, in the 19th century, the great moral imperative was the fight against slavery. And in the 20th century, it was the fight against totalitarianism. And in the 21st century, it is the fight for women’s equality. He was right, and we must accept – (applause) – and promote that fundamental truth. (Applause.)"
As I've written study after study correlates improvements in the status of women with overall improvements in the standards of living. I love Kristof's notion of the 21st century as the time to fight for women's equality.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
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Smorgasbord 3/11

Women More Resilient?
A study by Accenture finds that women are more resilient than men - a supposed advantage in turbulent times. The definition of resilience:
"the ability to overcome challenges and turn them into opportunities"
Based on this definition, 71 percent of more than 500 corporate leaders surveyed in 20 countries believed that resilience was a key capability in determining who to retain. Read the Accenture release here.

Good News/Bad News
Women leaders are the new power behind the global economy, proclaims Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu’s announcement of its second annual webcast celebrating International Women’s Day. In developing nations, women’s earned income is growing at 8.1 percent, compared with 5.8 percent for men. Globally, women control nearly $12 trillion of the $18 trillion total overall consumer spending, a figure predicted to rise to $15 trillion by 2014.

So, does this set women up to be the "go to persons" for consumption...or the "go to persons" for organizational leadership to align growth with the market. What do you think?

I LOVE the World Economic Forum
Though the data is depressing, they do an outstanding job of keeping the status of women in the forefront of peoples' minds. Here are some stats from the International Women's Day release:
"The Forum, based in Switzerland, surveyed 600 heads of human resources offices at the largest employers in 20 countries representing 16 different industries.

The findings, which were timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, follow the announcement Friday by the European Union of an initiative aimed at significantly narrowing the union’s average 18 percent gender wage gap, which has changed little in the past 15 years.

A study by the 27-member union last year estimated that closing the wage gap could lead to a potential increase of 15 percent to 45 percent in gross domestic product.

A 2009 report by the International Labor Organization found an average 20 percent difference in pay for men and women employed full time in the Group of 20 largest developed and developing economies. Yet the World Economic Forum’s report found that 72 percent of the companies in its survey had no systems to track salary differences by gender.

In addition, 60 percent of the companies said they had no affirmative action policies to promote women within their hierarchies and did not measure women’s participation in their work forces...the forum’s survey did not assess the status of women working in the public sector or in education, areas where female representation is traditionally high and where policies to promote gender balance are often institutionalized by law.

Women remained in the minority of senior corporate managers, representing just 5 percent of the chief executives of the 600 companies surveyed. Finnish companies in the sample had the largest proportion of female chief executives, with 13 percent, followed closely by Norway and Turkey with 12 percent and Italy and Brazil with 11 percent."

'Tis the Season for Rankings
NAFE has announced its Top 50 Companies for Executive Women. I particularly appreciate their methodology which pays particular attention to the number of women officers, on company boards of directors and in line positions.

Diversity Inc has announced its Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Sodexo (featured earlier on the blog) topped the list and was also noted as ranking first in employment of executive women (although it doesn't appear on the NAFE rankings).

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
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