Although progress continues to be made to close the gender gap in the workplace, there’s still much work to be done. In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted women in the workplace more than their male counterparts. Forbes notes that “women have disproportionately lost jobs, disproportionately reduced their work hours, and disproportionately increased the time they spend on child care and household responsibilities”.
One of the major ways that organizations can better support female employees is by providing mentors in the workplace. This can be through formal programs, informal coffee dates, association events, and other internal initiatives. Forbes writes that “when senior managers—both women and men—are available on a one-to-one basis to regularly listen to younger women’s questions and concerns and to share their experiences and insights, women are more satisfied at work and more likely to have successful careers”.
A formal mentorship program in the workplace is a great way to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from the experience of senior employees at their organization.
CNBC noted that having a mentor “who knows the ins and outs of an organization—how to get attention for your work or how to get put on that plum assignment—can be invaluable for someone looking to get a promotion or take on new responsibilities”. Research actually shows that “mentoring programs dramatically improved promotion and retention rates for minorities and women—15 to 38 percent as compared to non-mentored employees”.
Forbes also noted that both mentor and mentee benefit from mentorship programs. A “study found that 87 percent of mentors and mentees feel empowered by the relationship and reported greater confidence and career satisfaction. And, it turns out that mentees and mentors are both promoted far more often (5 times and 6 times, respectively) than those employees without mentors”.
Mentorship opportunities are also good for business, assuring that job knowledge is passed on as well as increasing retention.
Research shows that mentors in the workplace improve employees' overall happiness and engagement. According to CNBC, employees who have mentors in the workplace “are significantly more likely to be happy with their job”. Studies also show that “more than 9 in 10 workers (91%) who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs, including more than half (57%) who are ‘very satisfied’”.
If your organization doesn’t have the resources to create a mentorship program, there are other ways to ensure that your employees are still getting valuable insights from others in their field.
For some organizations—whether due to not having enough staff overall or not enough senior staff—mentorship may not actually be possible with only current employees. In these instances, your organization can provide resources to local associations that offer mentorship opportunities.
While mentors in the workplace are important for gaining valuable industry and organizational insights, for women to truly prosper, mentorship may need to take a step further into sponsorship or advocacy. It’s one thing for women to be able to connect with senior leaders in their organization or industry, but having someone advocate for them and help them advance their careers will ensure that women are given equal opportunities and that the gender gap in the workforce continues to close.