Inspiration

3 ways to effectively mentor and inspire women

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Many women are hesitant to seek a career mentor. They fear that it is a sign of weakness, and that if they seek help from another woman it means they are somehow less capable. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

As the VP of Sales for a CAD/CAM software company, I take special pleasure in hiring other women for my team and have taken great pride in the fact that I have mentored many of them and helped them to build successful careers.

According to research from a study conducted by Catalyst in 2012, 65% of women who have been mentored will go on to become mentors themselves. This is because women who find a good career mentor become more confident and more capable and thus become more inclined to return the favor to others.

While every mentor/mentee relationship is different, I often find that, when mentoring other women, there are three key ideas that I pass on to my mentees.

Become knowledgeable

I often tell my sales team, “Selling software isn’t like selling clothing.” The company I work for makes and sells CAD/CAM software, an industry which has always been and continues to be a very male dominated domain. To sell a high tech product in this market, a good salesperson needs to know every detail of the product in order to gain the trust and respect of your prospects.

I often tell the women I mentor, “Knowledge is not something you are born with but something that is acquired.” I know this from experience. I started my career as an electrical engineer and programmer, but over time I learned how to sell and how to manage a sales team. If a woman I am mentoring doesn’t feel she has the knowledge required to succeed, I emphasize that if she is able to learn and can become knowledgeable and competent, she is going to succeed.

Stay strong

When women present new ideas and are challenged, they may feel that it is incumbent upon them to stay quiet or even worse, change their mind. This is exactly the situation where a good mentor will encourage her mentees to stay strong.

I often tell my mentees that staying strong is not the same as being intransigent or stubborn. Staying strong means that you are able to explain and defend your ideas based on facts and logic. Even if some of your ideas do not work out in the long run, women who can effectively support and defend their ideas are more likely to earn the respect of their colleagues and advance in their career.

Balance career and family

When a woman chooses to become a mother, she is often torn between the needs of an ascendant career and those of a burgeoning family. For such women there typically is a perpetual sense of guilt over not being able to give both endeavors their very best. Also, women who have families may simply feel that they cannot stay late when necessary or take time after work to socialize with their peers.

Regardless of whether they are mothers themselves, mentors need to impress upon their mentees that they need to be able to multitask effectively to strike a balance between home and work. As a mentor, I try to set an example for my mentees on how to do this, often by drawing from examples from my own life.

With any luck, they’ll become excellent mentors themselves.

About Anita Anand

Anita Anand was born, raised, and educated in India as an electrical engineer. She earned a master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Alabama at Huntsville. She worked as a programmer at CMD Technologies and Printronics, where she rose to the role of Senior Software Engineer. She is currently VP of Sales for MecSoft Corporation, a leading CAD/CAM software solution provider that is now used in over 50 countries.

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