From Development Dimensions International (DDI):
Mentoring Still Not Happening for Women in the Workplace
New Research Reveals Subject Matter Expertise A Key Factor
PITTSBURGH—Many mid- to senior-level businesswomen have never had a formal mentor even though mentoring is widely considered a critical component to career success, according to new trend research conducted by Development Dimensions International (DDI) titled, Women as Mentors: Does She or Doesn’t She? A Global Study of Businesswomen and Mentoring. And this is not for the reasons one would expect. According to the research, women who felt less-than-expert on a specific topic did not take on mentoring roles.
Since the benefits of mentoring are well documented, this research took a closer look at the less explored side of the issue surveying 318 businesswomen from 19 different countries and 30 different industries. Given the number of women in the United States in senior-level positions, this survey size is statistically significant. The average age was 48-years old and 75 percent indicated that they were mid- or senior-level leaders. Tacy M. Byham, Ph.D., DDI Senior Vice President, Leadership Solutions stated, “A staggering 63 percent of the survey group never had a formal mentor and considering that 67 percent rated mentorship as highly important in helping to advance and grow their careers—this indicates a critical gap in businesswomen’s development.”
Are women afraid of rejection, protective of their authority and too competitive?
The data from this research breaks the stereotypes. Study results confirm that women don’t mentor because of one basic reason—they aren’t being asked. More than half the respondents have been asked to be a mentor a few times and 20 percent have never been asked at all. Women want to share their experience and provide career guidance, but other women are not seeking them out. And if they are afraid of rejection, the data shows they have no need to be. Seventy-one percent of women in the study report that they always accept invitations to be a mentor at work and reported they would mentor more if asked.
Contrary to the assumed rivalry and “Queen Bee” mentality popularized in movies like “The Devil Wears Prada,” our data show that almost half strongly agree that they would back one another, are more likely to sponsor each other and help other women rise to the top. Ranking lowest as a concern was “office politics” as an issue for only 8 percent of respondents and “internal competition” for an even smaller demographic of 2 percent.
What is holding women back from mentoring?
“Time” is the number one factor holding women back. Seventy-five percent of women reported that the time it takes to mentor most affects their decision to accept mentorships. Yet, only one in 10 chose not to mentor because it interfered with family time or other commitments. Criteria coming in second are “subject matter expertise” and “relationship to the mentee.” More than half—54 percent—site these as key considerations when deciding to accept a mentorship or not.
Only half of survey participants work at organizations that have formal mentoring programs. Of those that do, training is often ineffective. Twenty percent of women in our study rated the quality of the formal training they received as high or very high and another 22 percent didn’t receive any formal training at all. Compounding the problem, mentors aren’t being armed with the interpersonal skills (coaching, networking and influencing) they need to be effective in their roles.
Why mentoring matters and next steps?
Since women often have difficulty building social capital at work, mentoring is even more critical to their success. Mentoring is essential to practical experience sharing, to passing the wisdom-gained baton and to closing the information gaps between different parts of the organization. The one consistent theme that women in global executive offices share is the role mentoring played in helping them along the way.
To make mentoring happen, organizations need to set up a culture that makes mentoring a common practice. Provide communication around mentoring and train and support potential mentors and mentees. Mentors in senior-level positions need to make themselves available. Set up clear expectations for the mentorship and put a program in place that meets both your and your mentee’s needs. Mentees need to be on the lookout for the right mentors because there are fewer senior women to look to. Clarify and articulate what you hope to learn from the mentorship by clearly defining desired learning goals.
Access the full report here, Women as Mentors: Does She or Doesn’t She? A Global Study of Businesswomen and Mentoring
About Development Dimensions International–Founded in 1970, Development Dimensions International (DDI), a global human resources consulting firm, helps organizations close the gap between today’s talent capability and future talent needs. DDI’s expertise includes designing and implementing selection systems, and identifying and developing front-line to executive leadership talent. With more than 1,000 associates in 42 offices in 26 countries, the firm advises half of the Fortune 500.