Mentoring Gen Y Women - The Dichotomy of Perception

Mentoring Gen Y Women - The Dichotomy of Perception I recently asked several senior female executives in a women’s networking group what they know now that they wish they’d known when they entered the workforce. All said that having mentors early in their careers would have helped them become more effective much sooner. When asked if they are passing on the benefit of their hard-earned knowledge to a younger generation through mentorship, the executives said they have tried but have found that Gen Y (born 1982 – 1993, according to research done by Dan Schawbel) women aren’t acting on their advice. In mentioning this to other business associates, I have heard many anecdotes that support this observation.

I have also been interviewing Gen Y women about their expectations of and experiences in the corporate world. Interestingly, they say they want to be mentored, but they don’t find older women to be accessible or willing.

So we seem to have a gap between what Gen Y women are looking for in terms of mentoring and what baby boomer executive women are providing. We need to ask ourselves how universal this gap is, what has created it, and how we can bridge it. Mentoring is crucial for achieving the kind of self-development that provides success in both work and life. Women who are often excluded from important informal networks are especially in need of having someone senior as an advisor, confidant, role model, and supporter. The need for a mentor takes on even more urgency at a time when everyone you talk with is expressing anxiety, uncertainty, and looking for guidance; as well as this being a time when opportunities are more limited.

At this point, I see more questions than answers. Is this failure to connect a matter of the generations defining mentoring differently? Are senior executive women misinterpreting the needs of their younger colleagues? Are they communicating in a way that prevents Gen Y women from absorbing the message?

Mentoring Gen Y Women - The Dichotomy of Perception It may have something to do with the difference in technological comfort levels and how those shape relationships. Gen Y individuals communicate with peers and parents by texting, a form of communication not all senior executives have embraced. Do younger women view a mentor as someone you can text on an as-need basis for instant answers rather than having a sustained, long-term, face-to-face relationship?

It may be a difference in mindset. When boomer women entered the workforce, we were determined to figure out what the organization expected, “get it right,” and move up the career ladder. Many members of Gen Y are willing to leave a job rather than try to adapt to a culture and expectations they don’t embrace or believe in. They are confident that they will ultimately find employment that satisfies their needs on their terms. It will be interesting to see if the extreme shifts in the job market will impact this behavior.

Employers need to explore this disconnect and develop an understanding of how Gen Y women define mentoring and what it means to them. All organizations need to make the most of the talent they have and at the same time, be able to tap into all sources of talent, regardless of age and gender. Mentoring programs have long been an important element in efforts to recruit, retain, and nurture key talent. Their effectiveness will depend on how well they keep pace with the needs of those they seek to benefit.

We’d love to hear what successes and failures female executives have seen when mentoring younger women. Let us know what you’ve experienced in the comments below.

Sue Howarth is a Director with Career Partners International - New York, locally branded as The Ayers Group. She has been an executive coach, consultant and facilitator for over 25 years focusing on leadership, change management, and communication.

Career Partners International provides top quality talent management services to organizations of all sizes. Their offices around the world help assessengagedevelop, and transition talent in any industry. To find out more about Career Partners International and how you can maximize your organizational performance, reach out to an office near you or contact us today!

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  1. Martin Plumlee's avatar
    Martin Plumlee
    | Permalink
    Some thought provoking insights. May all leaders and future leaders start the dialogue and figure this out. Too important to miss the mark here!

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