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5 Mentoring Lessons From Influential Women

March 17, 2022
Chika Jones

As Women’s History Month continues, women across the world and the various spaces they impact have continued to show a commitment to breaking the bias of gender equality. 

On International Women’s Day, women in various organizations reflected on the many ways gender inequality shows up in the workplace. One thing is clear, women require more than panels and social media posts. They require actual support to get ahead and systemic change to level the playing field.

One way to support women is through impactful mentoring. A study found that 87 percent of mentors and mentees feel empowered by the relationship and reported greater confidence and career satisfaction. And, it turns out that mentees and mentors are both promoted far more often (5 times and 6 times, respectively) than those employees without mentors. (Source)

Influential women speak on mentoring

Viola Davis

Award winning actress Viola Davis had this to say about Meryl Streep being a mentor - 

“Meryl does it all the time. She [gives lessons in confidence] all the time. I think she does it in a way that she doesn’t even understand or think she’s doing it. You know, she just sent me an email, and I was like, ‘That’s perfect.’ She was like, ‘Yes, Viola, now that you’ve just had your vow renewal … this is the best part of your life now. There’s not anything that you don’t know anymore in terms of what’s good and bad out there, so now you can just fly.’ She’s always imparting wisdom like that.” (Source)

Ana Corrales

A business leader and the Chief Operating Officer for Google’s Consumer Hardware business, Ana Corrales also oversees the Google Store and she had this to say about how mentorship helps women in the workplace - 

“At 21, I wish I had known that sometimes bending the rules is absolutely necessary to making the exceptional happen….. I’ve met young girls and women who didn’t even consider that they could do a job like mine. This might be because it’s different than what their parents do/expect of them or because it just generally feels inaccessible or intimidating. We need to change that by highlighting the opportunity, and helping continue to develop women once they’re in the field.” (Source)

Jane Fonda

Award-winning American Actress Jane Fonda had this to say about mentoring - 

“I think the best advice a mentor could have given me was, ‘Jane, you know you can say no if the script isn’t good.’ I was just so surprised anybody ever wanted me in anything! I didn’t pay enough attention. 

I think the only actor who ever taught me much about life, more than acting, was Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond. Even though I did the movie for my dad, I produced it, who I learned from was Hepburn. I was 45 when I made that movie, and it was she who taught me to be self-conscious. I used to think that was a bad thing, but that means being conscious of the self you project to the public; having a persona, a style, a presence. 

I had none of that. I didn’t know how to dress! When I went onstage for my father at the Oscars, because he was too sick, I couldn’t believe how I looked and how I was dressed. I never paid attention. Hepburn taught me to pay attention and that style is important.” (Source)

Gale Wichmann

The director of resource and development at Amyris (leaders in synthetic biology), Gale speaks about how mentoring can help bridge the confidence gap - 

“I’ll never forget the advice I got from a female mentor who really dedicated herself to helping women at early stages in their careers. It goes to the confidence gap. She said whenever you get a new job, raise, or promotion, look at the comp sheet, say ‘Thank you, that’s nice,’ and then push it back and say, ‘I’m worth more.’ I was shocked that anyone could even think to do that. 

Most women would never dream to do that, and men do it all the time…. This can be hard and scary at first, but after the first few times, you’ll learn that you’re just as qualified as your male peer and can take on challenges without being ‘perfectly prepared’ for them. The good news is that confidence can be learned, and the same studies show that women do get more confident in their jobs as they get more experience, so start early.” (Source)

Kate Huyett

Chief marketing officer at Bombas, Kate speaks about the importance of developing relations with junior and senior colleagues - 

“You’re not in it alone! Invest in relationships with peers as well as those more senior and junior to you. I’ve been really conscious about this and as a result, now have a wide—and ever-growing—network of individuals that I can learn from and rely on. 

Over time, they’ve successfully secured a variety of different roles across industries. You don’t have to build this network through networking events—these relationships can be built one-on-one or in small groups as well.

I’m excited to see more women in leadership and the diversity of approaches they bring—we all come from different walks of life and all have something valuable to bring to the table.” (Source)

As the month progresses, if you are part of an organization interested in starting, expanding or structuring a mentoring program, you can download our ‘Facilitating Female Leadership Ebook' below:

Female Leadership Ebook
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