The Happy Task of Creating a Female Mentorship Program

Posted by BusinessForward Team on March 3rd, 2017

Perspective One: The Mentors

By: Jennifer Rignani
When women leaders at BusinessForward began thinking about a mentoring program for a growing influx of bright young team members, they decided an organic approach made sense. Drawing upon their own experiences as mentees, it became clear that among the many relationships in a woman’s life, a mentor is one of the most personal.

Solutions Architect Susan Bonidie says, “It’s rewarding to feel that you positively contributed to someone’s happiness. It’s not just about a career, it is about life.”

Our roles as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and friends involve intimacy of course, but at the core of these is a sense of duty. A true mentor relationship is not necessarily born out of long-standing familial bond, love or duty. When this particular connection forms, its rooted in seeing another person for their unrestricted potential. Whereas healthy adults function in the context of “now” and the practical constraints of our lives, mentoring is purely about growth as a human being-however and wherever that may take us.

It’s about more than a career.

“A mentor is not someone who shows you how to do your job well,” says Amy Dubin, a senior team member and Project Director at BusinessForward, “but rather a person who will take you out of the day to day work and show you skills you need to grow, how to be a leader, how to navigate the workplace politics.” Dubin was positively challenged by her mentor while working at Disney in 1997. “Her famous line was ‘Here’s your homework.’ It was really her way of giving me something to think about, keep me always moving forward.”

Some people find mentors in unexpected places. Susan found one of her best in a woman who interviewed her for a job she ultimately turned down. However, they clicked so well, Susan asked if the woman was receptive to keeping in touch. She was. Later, the woman left that company and needed some encouragement, so they became fast mentors for each other. “This is really key,” says Susan, “Reciprocity is essential in this relationship because you both add value. The real beauty is when it isn’t forced and you click naturally.”

Research shows that the top indicator of a successful coaching or mentoring relationship is how the mentee perceives the relationship, so make sure you feel the connection. –

Candice Liozu, the first female Client Executive at BusinessForward (she is now a contracted consultant) still feels a deep connection with her mentor, whom she met in 2002 while working at Saint Gobain in Paris. “He believed in me. I had such respect for him as a person, not just on the job. He was very wise, very smart. Perhaps most importantly, he allowed me to fail.” She says, “He still nourishes me.”

The idea of nourishment might be a new dimension in terms of mentoring.

Often in our other life roles, we are providing nourishment, and perhaps not giving enough to ourselves. The old airplane rule, “In the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others” can get lost in the shuffle of responsibility. The right mentor-mentee relationship will not deplete the mentor. As a matter of fact, mentoring need not be such a formal, enforced program, but more tailored to the people involved.

The more the BusinessForward leaders talked about mentoring, the more they realized the idea of a mentor can mean many things.

So, the marketing lead suggested an informal survey, posting the question on Facebook – “Women: What word comes to mind when you hear ‘mentor’?” The responses (some from men) revealed the multi-faceted nature of this relationship:

Champion, goals, guide, inspirational, integrity-enforcer, coach, class, teacher, quiet example, role model, advocate, committed, hero, challenger, trust, nourishment.

Though these BusinessForward women all play major roles in complex projects, they will allocate the proper time to make it work. Why? There is a true sense of commitment to weaving mentoring into the company fabric. Susan says, “We have such smart and resourceful people coming in. I don’t want to let them down.”

“I feel uplifted when I know that I made a difference in someone’s life, whether personal or professional. In addition, I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to meet such amazing people in my life that I make it a point to give back,” says Candice.

For Amy, supporting the professional development and growth of another business woman is gratifying and personally rewarding. “A friendship develops as well. We learn from each other so I get the benefit of learning from someone with different ideas and perspectives,” she says.

Considering that women who currently hold CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, based on the January 2017 S&P 500 list is 29 (5.8%) of CEO positions at those S&P 500 companies, supporting each other benefits everyone.

Susan Bonidie has led projects including PGT, MSA and GENCO; Candice Liozu has led projects including Sheetz, Elliott, PPG and Amy Dubin has led projects including EQT, AI and Duquesne Light Company.

Next in May: The 360 Degree Mentorship: Mentees Weigh In

For more on mentoring, check these out:

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BusinessForward Team

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