Me & My Mentor
Norah Breekveldt’s latest publication. To be released late 2017
“A life without advocating for change is not a life that will have meaning for me.” Elizabeth Broderick, former Australian sex discrimination commissioner.
Breaking the glass ceiling, achieving equality in the workplace, having choice and being empowered – they sound like distant ideals rather than achievable realities to many women in the workplace, judging by the abysmal rate of change they observe.
In many industry sectors, women continue to experience career development and progression at a disadvantage to men, facing discrimination unique to the female experience. Why is it that women remain seriously underrepresented in the specific disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)? Why do one in three women lawyers feel their career progression failed to live up to their expectations, yet less than one in five men feel this way?
A track record of achievement is simply not enough. Career success today is about being well connected, building and leveraging relationships. Being in a trusted and confidential relationship with a mentor who can personally guide and sponsor talented women can be instrumental in identifying opportunities and providing a voice to women who may not otherwise be heard.
Yet often women do not realise the vital role mentors and advocates play in creating advancement opportunities. Men are more likely to have mentors and advocates and naturally cultivate these connections. Women, on the other hand, often don’t know how to proactively pursue mentoring or advocacy relationships. Perhaps this dilemma explains some of the gender gap in senior leadership roles.
Yet another book on mentoring and advocacy?
There are a multitude of self-help books and business publications on mentoring espousing theory around mentoring, outlining best practice and offering practical tips and guides for engaging in a successful mentoring relationship.
However, descriptions of theory and best practice are not always enough to motivate behavioural change. We need to appeal to hearts as well as minds. This is where stories come in. We all love to read about another woman’s spectacular successes, disastrous failures, turning points and strategies for working through seemingly impossible problems and situations with their mentor. We can connect to these stories, learn from them and begin to understand what makes for a successful mentoring relationship.
If you’ve ever been curious about how mentoring can advance your career, or how you can apply mentoring to achieve true diversity in your workplace, then Me and My Mentor is for you.
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Victoria Khroundina of SheRa Mag chats to Norah about inspirational women, some of the obstacles they faced in the workplace, and personal strategies that can help women navigate career breaks.