According to the LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co 2015 study, ‘Women in the Workplace’, 52% of entry-level jobs at professional services and finance firms are held by women, yet the same study finds that women hold only 32% of vice-president positions and 22% of C-suite posts across the professional services and finance industry.
A major contributing factor has been the lack of female role model mentors in financial services. The industry would benefit broadly from a greater emphasis on female mentoring, including more senior female professionals stepping up and answering the call to serve as mentors.
What mentoring steps can female finance professionals take to help create a path to leadership?
Seek out a senior person to be your mentor: Asking for help and guidance in one’s career isn’t a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength. Professionals at every stage of their careers should proactively identify and approach a potential senior person to be a mentor, viewing it as a critical investment in their professional future. In the LeanIn.Org/McKinsey study more than half of senior women said having a higher-level sponsor is vital to success and advancement.
Invest in yourself by being someone’s mentor: Women at all career levels within financial services firms need to embrace mentoring as an opportunity to encourage, guide, and pass on their wisdom to the next generation of female leaders. It’s also important to remember that mentoring is a two-way street – a tremendous opportunity that delivers a number of professional benefits for both mentor and mentee:
- Higher job satisfaction: Everybody relishes a greater sense of responsibility, just as everyone likes making a material difference. By reaching out to less experienced women and offering yourself as a resource, you gain the satisfaction of people valuing your opinion and looking up to you as a role model.
- Higher promotion rates and earning potential: When you put your hand up and consciously mentor somebody, you are indicating to management that you are eager to go above and beyond your job description. That helps put you into the consideration set for promotion more quickly, leading to higher future income, benefits, and recognition.
- Higher retention rates: When you are engaged and believe you are making a meaningful contribution to your organization you can engender that same feeling in someone you are mentoring – and you are more likely to want to stay. You will also contribute to engagement across your organization, promoting retention overall.
- Increased work success: If you are actively mentoring someone, you likely view each workday as an opportunity to learn and to be a resource to someone. This frequently translates into increased financial success and recognition as a thought leader and role model.
- Greater learning opportunities: During my career, I have learned as much from people I have mentored as I have from people who have mentored me. Each interaction offers new insights and perspectives in both directions.
How can you strengthen your focus on mentoring and networking today?
- Find out if your organization has a formal mentoring programme. If not, work with human resources (HR) and other business partners to establish one.
- Identify women (internal and external) who could be helpful resources – using LinkedIn or sites such as the National Association of Professional Women and EmergingWomen.com as resources.
- If you are a treasury professional, seek out your local chapter of the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT), Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) or equivalent and volunteer to serve on the board or conference planning committees.
- Explore volunteer opportunities on non-profit boards to meet like-minded women and broaden your network.
- Get involved in any industry group with which your company has an affiliation to make connections and establish yourself as a thought leader.
- View every introduction as a potential business connection or relationship. Think about networking more comprehensively, not just limiting it to formal networks or events.
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