Meet a brilliant young girl who is a high achiever. She is smart, confident, and believes in her ability. Unlike many who struggle to find their purpose early, this young girl has always been sure about her ambitions, and what she wants to accomplish. She worked hard through all levels of her education, and always came out among the top achievers. But as she enters the workplace upon graduation, or begins a small business, she stumbles.
She faces two complex problems: translating her knowledge to skills to fit in, and finding opportunities to learn and grow. To regain her confidence, in another environment, she must receive another level of education – not academics. Rather, one where she is nurtured through mentoring, and connected to opportunities for growth.
Women are different from men. There is a lot of ample research that substantiates the differences between our social behaviours in society concerning work and family, and the varying opportunities available in the workplace and business. Regardless of these limitations such as the scenario painted above, as female leaders, how do we assist young women and empower them to retain confidence in their abilities, grow and lead? We could start by recognizing that our young women will not come ready made, and we have to offer them another level of education:
Mentoring versus Sponsorship as the gateway
Mentoring is a gateway to gaining knowledge and building skills for everyone. However, the concept of sponsorship rather than mentoring has been proffered as a more progressive solution for a couple of years, owing to its merits. The argument for sponsorship is that mentors “advise”, because they are passively involved in a mentee’s life, but sponsors “act” because they are more proactive in fast tracking the progress of the mentee.
According to an article by Monica Taher, titled …Let’s Look for a Mentor, a study conducted by a nonprofit organization that promotes inclusive workplaces for women, in 2010 discovered that “men benefit more than women from mentorship—even when women are mentored earlier in their careers.” She explains further that men benefit not only by increasing their skills through mentorship, but fast track their rise in the business world or workplace because their mentors eventually become their sponsors, who recommend them for leadership positions. Sponsorship is evidently a proactive way to empower the next generation of female leaders to fuel their ambitions. Notwithstanding, mentoring has its merits, and we must encourage more young women to get involved in mentoring programmes in organisations such as Women in Business, Management and Public Offices (WIMBIZ) or She Leads Africa, FATE Foundation, among other entrepreneurial and corporate programmes, where they can be nurtured and guided.
Connecting to opportunities:
There are many young women who are not short of ambition. They want to excel, but they do not know how. In any enterprise or a workplace, we have people with different talents. We should watch out for those who are eager and have potential to be high performers. We should guide them. We should set expectations based on our experiences. These young women should be exposed early to the qualities of leadership and responsibility. They should be connected to opportunities to prove themselves; opportunities that will stretch their learning, encourage them to take initiative, and believe in themselves; opportunities that will boost their confidence and fuel their ambitions more.
The next generation of young women leaders in enterprise or the workplace can also benefit from networking. Networking opportunities provide a chance to connect with role models who can help advance their passions or enterprise. Networking is a pro-active and high impact activity. One can only connect with female leaders if their goals are in line with the leader’s goals and values; therefore, it is important to do some background check to see if the top female leader shares similar values, rather than looking to connect with anyone.
Nobody comes ready made to take up opportunities; therefore, by empowering the next generation, we are helping them to find their purpose, creating a sustainable pipeline to turn out leaders, and passing on the baton to transfer knowledge that would be beneficial to another generation.
Culled from LinkedIn