Where are all the Mentees?
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Each June we begin anew with our Ms Moxxie group mentoring program for young professional women. And each year, I encounter the same challenge of recruiting 30 young women as our mentees. You would think that most young women would embrace the rare opportunity to get a mentor at the onset of their careers. Yet each year I find myself asking "Where are all the mentees?"
During the year I accumulate a list of potential mentees whom I meet at networking events. It is uncommon to see young women (and men) at these events since they do not have the ability in their entry-level positions to arrive late for work or take a 2 hour lunch - something that their senior-level colleagues have. I inevitably gravitate over to the young women and introduce myself. They are very pleased and relieved to have anyone to speak with as most feel uncomfortable and alone at such events. I explain our mentoring program and how it can increase their personal and professional acumen. I further explain that It’s also a great way to meet new friends who share the same issues and challenges and where they can grow together. They show genuine interest and excitement and tell me they want to participate when the program begins in June.
As June approaches, I contact my list of potential mentees and one by one they begin to drop off - if they even respond at all. I ask myself "Am I scaring off these young women?" and "Does the program sound more like work or school rather than a fun way to grow as a young professional?" Why is it that when the time comes, I am twisting the arms of young women to participate? Even three of my own interns who have since graduated college, were VERY reluctant to join Ms Moxxie and it took much coercing on my part to have them participate. WHY I ask WHY?
Well the very answer to this question is the very reason why I began our mentoring programs in the first place! These young women do not have the Moxxie to ask their bosses or companies to support them in the program. As women, we do not want to make waves, to ask for special allowances or to stand out in a way that we perceive is negative. The same young women who back-peddle are the same young women who NEED Moxxie. We as women, must get accustomed to and comfortable with asking. If you don't ask, you don't get!
You can rest assured that next June I will not be asking "Where are all the mentees?" Instead I will be asking "Where are the companies who look for organizations like Moxxie to provide a forum that supports and fosters their future female leaders?" If they have young women who lack the confidence to ask, aren't those the same young women unable to assert themselves with customers, vendors, colleagues and others. We will nurture and develop their young employees into stronger, more confident professionals with improved business skills who will better represent their companies. It's really a win-win!
Afterthought: Moxxie Network's Business Book Club recently read Women Don't Ask (written by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever). The overriding message is that women's fear of bargaining and negotiation holds us back from achieving what we deserve and want. Perhaps I should send it to the young back-peddlers I meet. (Full disclosure- I was probably one of them myself at their age.)