Who’s a Better Mentor? Men or Women
I’ve gotten a slew of emails about my Good Morning America segment from earlier this week on a new Catalyst study that found while men and women find mentors equally, men are more likely to have mentors who hold more senior positions.
Why should we care? Because it costs women big-time in pay and promotions.
Men with mentors earn bigger and more frequent promotions and accompanying pay raises than women with mentors, presumably because the men’s mentors have more clout and are greater champions of their mentees. On average, the men with mentors received a whopping 21% more in compensation tied to their promotions, compared to 2% for women with mentors.
What can we do about it?
Find a champion, not just a mentor. Typically we envision a mentor as our sounding board, someone with whom with can have candid conversations for advice and feedback. It’s the person who may teach us the unspoken rules.
While that has tremendous value, it doesn’t necessarily make us more money. If we want to make more money and advance more quickly, women need sponsors—champions—someone with clout who’ll use some political capital to speak up on our behalf when there’s an opening or opportunity.
Stop assuming your good work will be noticed. This is a classic mistake women make. We bury our heads and we think if we just do a good job, someone will tap us on the shoulder with that raise and promotion. The job fairy doesn’t exist; she’s not coming. It’s up to us to take ownership of our self-directed career advancement, which includes tooting our horns, marketing our results and making our desires for advancement known.
Find opportunities to connect with senior leaders. One of the ways to do just that is to seek out opportunities to connect with senior people or those with influence so they know who you are and the value you possess. Ask to be included in meetings. Attend company-wide events and introduce yourself. Proactively promote the results you’re delivering. Ask someone who leads the department you aspire to join if you can have 10 minutes of his or her time to introduce yourself and share your ideas. Connect with leaders in your industry through professional associations. Take on a visible role within the group.
Then don’t assume, “If he or she could help me, I know they will.” Instead, ask directly: “Can I count on you to champion my advancement?” Share your specific goals—“Here’s the job I’d like, here’s the course I want to pursue.”—and secure their support.
Focus on seniority above gender. Most people have very strong opinions based on personal experiences as to whether women or men are better advocates for promoting women. Some will say men have a bias against women and they’re more loyal to that old boys club. While women, they’ll claim, are jealous and won’t stick their neck out for another gal. That debate rages on.
Catalyst found that gender wasn’t relevant, but seniority was. And since there are more men in senior positions, it’s very likely that our best champions may very well be men.
Tell us about your mentor. Is it someone who offers advice or do you have someone who’ll go to bat for your success? Share your situation.