The value that having great mentors adds to one’s career is rarely disputed, and I for one am very thankful for the professional mentors I’ve had thus far in my career. Growing up in the generation that I have and with a strong female role model in front of me to lead by example, I feel extremely lucky for this since this isn’t the usual norm. I think due to this I have in turn always been very interested in obtaining the perspective and thoughts from senior female leaders, since I as have gotten older, have realzied this opportunity seems to be bit of a rarity.
Sound mentorship is a necessity for having a successful career in my opinion, but the gender of the mentors you seek out…does that really matter? I feel that both male and female mentors have just the same amount of insight, knowledge, and relational skills to offer, but I feel the way their messages are delivered can definitely vary. Of course this is dependent on the mentor themselves and their personal style of mentorship, but I feel the two (male and female) observe different points and deliver their observations and suggestions in different manners. This is through my own personal experience of course and no, this is not always the case, but I for one like having the variety and enjoy the different perspectives and delivery methods. I feel it makes me a better-rounded critical thinker as I try to see the viewpoints of others in different scenarios as I go down my career path.
The main question though, do I feel that having a female mentor is a necessity to advance my career as a young professional women, no I do not. I believe it really just depends on what you are looking to get out of the mentorship and the gap you are seeking to fill; with this it does not matter whether they are male or female, it’s about finding the right person for the job. Do I feel that it would be a fortunate occurrence to have a female mentor, absolutely, because as I further progress in my career finding a variety of senior level women to add new and different insight will become more and more challenging; and the fact of the matter is, sometimes females just relate better to each other on certain topics. Almost like an unspoken understanding of certain life milestones that women go through, such as, the balance act between your spouse, being a mom and a successful career woman.
In a conversation I had recently on this very topic with a senior level women leader who I very much admire for her leadership style and unspoken confidence, mentioned to me that she has never once had a female mentor. I was a little surprised at this, and I asked, “Is this because you simply don’t think it has any different value add to have a female mentor or were there just none to seek out at a more senior level then yourself”? She said it was a little of both. The fact was she didn’t have any senior women leaders to seek mentorship from in her career as she progressed through. She also added that this isn’t to say there were no senior women out there at all, but the opportunity simply never presented itself. When she did come across those opportunities to build new mentorship relations they have just always been with men, never women. I thought this was very interesting given her great progress she has experienced thus far in her career and the way she confidently and effectively commands herself with in her successful career. I think this goes to show, having a professional female mentor is not a necessity but more accurately viewed as a nicety.