Mentoring takes time but it is rewarding! Find mentors who believe in you, and believe in the people you are mentoring!
Dear WE readers,
Whenever I discuss the topic of gender in my classes I am confronted by a number of people who believe that issues of gender-based access and opportunity are subjects of the past. While the assumption may seem a reasonable one at first glance, the sad reality is that gender discrimination in the workplace remains a relevant and pressing issue. This becomes apparent to executives and students as soon as I start probing with questions like: How many women managers or executives have you reported to? How often have you had classes or attended workshops where the keynote speakers were women? How many women faculty have taught you? How many business cases have you analysed that had women as principle protagonists? Questions such as these invariably change the dialogue from a discussion of the validity of the debate to a discussion around the challenges and the need to redress the inequality as a matter of some urgency.
When first asked to write a blog or brief statement for the WE newsletter, I decided to reflect upon a key external stimulus that influenced my life and career development. I hope you find these reflections interesting and a valuable context setting for subsequent reflections that I will be making in the weeks and months ahead!
I read for my PhD very late in life and have to admit that almost until the very end of the process pursuing a doctorate continued to be a rather surreal dream. Why? I grew up in a family and society that believed women should be wives and mothers first and foremost. Women who strived for something outside the home usually looked to teaching or nursing as the high education attainments and the limits to a professional career. Let me be absolutely clear, my parents were super people but they were either not aware of broader opportunities or not very ambitious for their two daughters.
Fortunately for me, in addition to being rewarded with two wonderful children – a daughter who is currently reading for her PhD and a son who is completing his Masters degree – I have had great bosses and colleagues throughout my professional career. In particular, I am grateful to the few who saw more potential in me that than I saw in myself, and who then challenged and inspired me to realise this potential. Actually, my path to my PhD began when one of my most influential bosses prevailed upon me to do an MBA around a decade ago. When he first suggested the idea I remember thinking “that’s crazy, I am not the sort of person to pursue such a degree. Can I even get accepted and then succeed at a top internationally oriented business school?”
Even armed with my MBA, I am sure I would not have had my doctorate or be doing the work I currently am – including writing this blog – if it were not for the above mentor and another who believed in me. These men, and other female and male colleagues and friends continually edged me on, especially when times were tough and the conflicting claims on my energies were many!
So, what is the core message of this first blog? To all my readers, and particularly to my female readers, I want to encourage you to seek mentors throughout your careers and to take the time to mentor others whenever you can. The rewards from being well mentored are much more than the narrow career progression and salary increments that may result – they can be life transforming! The rewards from mentoring are equally fulfilling as you see others flourish with your support and encouragement.
From academic study and with the benefit of my own experiences, I am convinced that most of us are born with more potential, creativity, intelligence, and other abilities than we initially appreciate. Without mentors, sponsors, and peers who challenge us because of their desire to see us realise our full potential, many of us will continue to contribute far less than we otherwise might. Mentors who awaken this potential and then support us realise it may be rare and hard to find but they do exist if you open yourself up to the opportunity.
A lot has been written about mentorship and sponsorship. I appeal to each of you to try and find mentors within and from outside your organisations – individuals who you can talk to, discuss every day matters with, and who can support you create your future. Don’t stop here! Mentor and sponsor other people – help them find jobs, help them with promotions, send their curriculum vitaes on to your network. Mentoring takes time but it is rewarding! Find mentors who believe in you, and believe in the people you are mentoring!
There are so many RSM women alumni, current students, staff and faculty who are phenomenal. I would like all the women of RSM to shine and would love to hear and spread your success stories. To this end, from the next issue onwards we will be featuring RSM’s wonderful women.
Dianne Bevelander, MBA, PhD
Associate Dean MBA Programmes, RSM