Mentoring Still Not Happening for Women in the Workplace

From Development Dimensions International (DDI):

Mentoring Still Not
Happening for Women in the Workplace

New Research Reveals
Subject Matter Expertise A Key Factor

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.  

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.


About Development Dimensions InternationalFounded
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.