5 Qualities of a Great Mentor for Professional Women


The right mentor can serve as an example of success. She can be a mirror, reflecting good and bad impartially. The right mentor won’t have all the answers but will help you find the right questions. Finding the right mentor is important for any professional, but especially for women navigating the corporate world. More women are taking on senior positions in corporate America than ever before, yet we still occupy only around 20 percent of Fortune 500 corporate board seats.

Why is that? Odds are, those other 80 percent of board seats are occupied by men who found proper mentors. With a greater raw number of men finding corporate success, there are more men to learn from. But we’re turning that tide. Treat yourself as an equal to men in your field. Find the right mentor for you.

What to look for in a mentor:

1. Treats you as equal to a man

Your mentor shouldn’t disregard gender – gender is the whole reason we’re having these conversations. But a good mentor knows you are every bit as worthy of professional success as a male counterpart.

Watch out! Go back and read that last sentence again: “… you are every bit as worthy of professional success as a male counterpart.” It seems so simple, but it’s insidiously simple to forget too. Centuries of cultural norms are broken with that one statement and it’s all too easy to slip back to the male-dominated mindset.

2. There for you, not them

Everyone likes giving advice. It’s an easy ego boost. The right mentor, however, should be engaged in your world, listening to and reflecting on your circumstances. Anyone eager to tell you what to do before finding out who you are, where you are, and what you want, is very likely not the mentor you are looking for.

3. Draws you out

Chances are you haven’t written an autobiography. Maybe you have. But chances are your memoirs are a work in progress. A great mentor will get you thinking about who you are and what you want. The story of who you are and who you are becoming will get clearer. A great mentor will help you find the mindset needed to be your best.

4. Sees the big picture

Women tend to carry the burden of taking care of things at home – so find somebody that understands this and provides motivation for work-life integration. It could be your mentor prefers the title Life Coach, because it’s frankly unreasonable to think getting ahead in the office happens in a vacuum. Finding time and headspace for career advancement, a family, and you – yes YOU – is almost too much for anyone to handle alone. A mentor, or life coach, can give an objective outside perspective.

5. Pushes You

Setting and meeting challenges feels great. Depending on your situation, your mentor may advocate setting many small easily-achieved goals, or the opposite: striving for the seemingly impossible. Either way, your mentor should be someone who motivates you, advocates for you, and celebrates with you.

IAW is focused on mentorship and helping you find a great mentor to progress your career path. Learn more about mentorship from our weekly events and register for one today!