Mentorship is a core component of every industry. Those with more experience and knowledge play a pivotal role in guiding those climbing the ranks. To build a diverse and inclusive team, mentorship becomes a necessity that yields significant dividends. And in the financial advisory industry, renowned for being male-dominated, mentorship will be critical to accelerate diversity and position the business for the challenges and opportunities that it will face in the coming decade.
The role of a mentor is a serious one. Research affirms that women who are mentored report higher job satisfaction, are promoted faster and earn more money. However, I have witnessed dozens of careers sidelined by poor advice from a well-meaning mentor. This relationship isn’t about rescuing, it’s about sharing perspective, experience and knowledge. It also isn’t about mentoring the “mini-mes” of the world, so double check who you are mentoring and make sure that it includes those who are different than you by race and gender.
From my perspective, these are the critical elements to being a strong mentor:
Understand your mentee
Knowing and understand your mentee is imperative to guiding her properly. A great way to do this is to request your mentee’s three-year career plan and most recent performance evaluation. This can help form the foundation of your relationship. If you understand where your mentee is trying to go and what her current boss provides as feedback, you will have the knowledge of how to guide her without any personal bias or assumption creeping in.
Encourage your mentee to have a personal board of directors
A personal board of directors is exactly as it sounds: a group of diverse individuals who provide guidance, encouragement and perspective. By having this group, your mentee will benefit from different viewpoints. As part of this board, there absolutely needs to be a sponsor, someone within your protégé’s firm that has invested in her and is willing to advocate on her behalf for advancement and opportunity. As a mentor, part of your role is to make sure your mentee has a sponsor or is on the road to getting one.
Doing your job well and a strong work ethic are table stakes for a rewarding career. However, far too often, talented young people keep their heads down and work hard, without recognizing the importance of building a network and seeking some visibility. Accordingly, as a mentor you can provide additional visibility to your protégé. Invite her to an industry event at an association you belong to, to a speaker series, or to lunch with some of your other protégés. Help her see the value in building a strong network. It will be critical for her career success.
What to do in the #metoo era
Most people understand very well that there is no new added risk to mentoring women, but this is somehow clouded for a small handful. Women, above all else, are asking to be treated equally. Continue to treat men and women with equality and you will not run into any problems.
Providing mentorship requires that you get involved. Start by volunteering with a local industry association that runs a mentorship program or look inside your firm by letting HR know you’d like to be a mentor. Not only will you contribute to a stronger industry, but you might find that you learn a few things along the way.
Camilla Sutton is president and chief executive officer of Women in Capital Markets, a national organization based in Toronto that aims to accelerate gender diversity in finance.