Investing in You: Working women's wisdom
Mentors. Women want them, but how do we meet one? Sometimes slowly. Sometimes quickly. There's a new phenomenon called "speed mentoring." It's similar to speed dating, but instead, you're asking another woman for help.
Mentors. Women want them, but how do we meet one?
Sometimes slowly. Sometimes quickly.
There's a new phenomenon called "speed mentoring." It's similar to speed dating, but instead, you're asking another woman for help.
Clarifi, a nonprofit that offers credit counseling and financial planning, got together this month with the Philadelphia region's Forum of Executive Women and set up an informal mentorship program among women who might not otherwise meet.
Clarifi hosted the joint event May 7 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, with four half-hour sessions in which "mentor" and "mentee" women rotated among tables. (More sessions are in the works.)
Peggy McCausland, an employment lawyer in Conshohocken, volunteered as a "speed mentor." Once a partner at a major law firm, she went out on her own nearly a decade ago.
"One young woman I mentored tonight wanted to go to law school. Another, in her 50s, was thinking about going back to school. But she already had a master's degree in social work!" McCausland exclaimed.
"We discovered that she's happy with her field, but unhappy with her boss. She was just desperate trying to solve it. I told her to focus on polishing her resumé, look for a different organization that values its staff. Don't incur the debt of a new degree," McCausland said in between mentoring shifts.
Who mentored McCausland?
"No one. I never had a mentor. It was a hole in my life and my career. And I could have used a mentor to avoid some pitfalls."
She's paying it forward by helping out at these events and has joined others, like Women of Wit and Wisdom, the women's network through the Pyramid Club.
"It brings smart women together, and they'll find a way to help each other without a hard sell," McCausland says. "We ask each other questions like: 'What's the problem you faced this week? What's your idea of a great day?' And I feel energized afterwards."
Mentoring meet-ups aren't taking place just in Center City.
The Women's Resource Center in Wayne offers career coaching and seminars for women in transition, meaning those looking for jobs or reentering the workforce while raising families. Another group, the Ellevate Network, holds events in Center City and Dresher.
"Humans don't fare well in isolation," says Angela Marchesani, program coordinator for the Women's Resource Center, at 113 W. Wayne Ave. (For information about career coaching and mentoring opportunities, visit www.womensresourcecenter.net.)
"I myself am part of a few groups, like one for working moms with small businesses" and entrepreneurs called Bizzy Mamas, Marchesani says.
Mentors and networks feed off one another, she says.
Through Bizzy Mamas, Marchesani met Jennifer Robinson of Purposeful Networking and Femfessionals, a national organization with local chapters. Another in the suburbs is the Society of Professional Women through the Main Line Chamber of Commerce.
And since 1998, the One Percenters have maintained the first women-only club table at the Union League, inspired by the concept that "1 percent of the population moves the world forward."
The benefits of having a mentor, a team, a network - and of socialization in general - are immense, say experts like Joleen Jaworski, founder of Business Clubs of America, which has chapters in Philadelphia and Arizona.
"Sports teams, fraternities, sororities, all of them lead to higher happiness rates and less depression," Jaworski says. "The health benefits are there."
She believes in the "slow" school of building a community. Unlike other groups, Jaworski's Business Clubs of America was founded in 2005 to "create long-term relationships. We think of the word networking as a curse word. Relationships don't happen overnight."
BCA members generally sign a three-year membership contract, costing $17,000 annually.
"You have to be sponsored, interviewed, and recommended," she says.
Jaworski was lucky: Her mentors were her parents, Liz and Ron Jaworski (he's the former Eagles quarterback, of course).
But if you can't find a mentor through a paid network, there are free and low-cost mentorship opportunities out there.
Says McCausland: "I was a partner in a large law firm before going out on my own nine years ago. There was an absence of mentoring of female attorneys. I'd see a male partner invite the male associate next to me out to lunch or to golf. A big attractive case would come along, and the male associate would get the case.
"It wasn't intentional. But people tend to reach out to people they're comfortable with, and informal networking opportunities wind up having a huge impact. The absence of them, too, has an impact. So it's especially important to be conscious of mentoring other women."