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Q: I’m tired of how women are portrayed on reality TV as catty and shallow. How can we shift the mindset? How can we encourage leadership and mentorship among female professionals?


Answer: First, let’s be clear: not too much of what we see on TV is based in reality (not even “reality” shows). It’s intentionally sensationalized to attract viewers and advertiser dollars.


Still, we can each be a changer of stereotypes and a shifter of mindsets. Mentoring may be one of the most important ways to prove that women do lift up other women— professionally and personally.


Ways you can make it happen:


  • Ask to be mentored. There are plenty of women who would welcome the opportunity to mentor if they were approached.  So, the first thing women can do is ask.

 

  • Shut down stereotypes.  There is a misconception that all women are in competition and unwilling to help each other. Refuse to allow this fiction to taint how you view female superiors and peers. Remember the old adage: a rising tide lifts all ships.


  • Lack of time. If you’re in a position to mentor, don’t let a tight schedule stop you. Mentoring doesn’t have to take a ton of time – it can even be done over a meal, on the phone or through a video chat. Work it into your calendar as a non-negotiable meeting.


  • Advocate for a formal mentoring program.  Most companies do not have a formal mentoring program, shortchanging the potential of the organization’s future leadership.  Talk to HR about starting one.


  • Keep it going.  If you are clear about your expectations of a mentoring relationship and you commit to one another, both you and your mentor can grow from it. Then, someday you’ll be in a position to reciprocate by becoming a mentor, too. As the Buddhist proverb goes, “If you light a lamp for someone, it will also brighten your own path.”

 

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