As a woman in business, I’m no stranger to the ‘strong, cold businesswoman’ stereotype. I think strength and success for women is often portrayed as a solitary pursuit – that to be independent is to be alone. But I have no problem with announcing myself as a strong independent woman, while acknowledging the support that enables me to be my best self.
As a successful entrepreneur, I would not be where I am were it not for the examples set by, and support given, by the women who came before me. In saying that, male mentors have also helped me along the way. No woman is an island, and both my mentors and mentees build my capacity to be the best I can be.
But I’ve found that female mentors can be hard to come by.
It’s Worth the Search
I’ll never forget the high I felt after my first mentoring session on Lisnic, the online mentoring platform I built with my business partner Nick Bell – one of my very first backers on my business journey. It had been a bit of a search to find a female mentor in the business world. Perhaps if you too are a woman in business, it won’t surprise you to hear that only 18.3 percent of CEOs are women, with men also dominating the offerings through many formal mentoring channels.
There’s nothing wrong with having a male mentor – as I mentioned, Nick was one of my first big champions, but there really is something magic that happens when women come together.
While expert advice is genderless, shared experiences can be both freeing and encouraging. There’s nothing quite like sharing with someone who ‘gets it’ or has been in your same shoes. Whether it be the feeling of being the only woman in a meeting or the pressures of juggling a career with family life (or the expectation to have a family at all!), the knowledge that you’re approaching business problems or career questions from the same page – or even just the same book – enables you to share and develop your mentoring relationship more easily.
You Can’t Be What You Can’t See
One of the big reasons I started mentoring, and indeed why we started Lisnic, is because I believe in the power of sharing knowledge as an avenue to influence change and innovation in business. I try to keep myself as visible as possible as an example of what young women can achieve.
Whether it’s mentoring immigrant women and young aspiring women, or posting frequently on my LinkedIn, I feel it’s my responsibility to communicate to women of all backgrounds what is possible to them, in an industry that so often does not reflect them.
Through my platforms, I hope to encourage other women to do the same – to speak out, share their knowledge and share their successes with the world.
When We Shine, We Shine Together
Gender aside, the benefits of mentoring are felt by both mentor and mentee alike. For me, getting to play a role in shaping the career of an up and coming businesswoman is not just one of the highlights of my professional life, it’s also a fantastic opportunity for me to learn!
Mentoring gives me an opportunity to sharpen my soft skills like active listening, communicating ideas, and social skills learnt from working with people of diverse perspectives. The women I mentor can school me, too! With fresh ideas and new perspectives, they keep me on my toes and remind me that you’re never too experienced to quit learning. Ultimately, the experiences I have mentoring other women help me to be a better leader.
If you’re at the stage of your career where you think you might have some mentoring skills to offer other women, you definitely do. The camaraderie, leadership and support that you could provide to an early or mid-career woman could change the course of their career – and maybe even yours.
We need more female mentors, especially in business, so now is your time to step up. I can’t wait to see what can be done when women continue to share their strengths to lift one another up.
Lisa Teh spent seven years in tax law, but her flair for creativity and passion for beauty and digital saw her leave that corporate world to start several businesses including CODI Agency, and more recently, Lisnic – a global online mentoring platform changing the way mentors and mentees interact around the world. Lisa is also the founder of beauty brand 101 Lifestyle, a natural oral hygiene brand stocked at MECCA. She is also co-author of best-selling books Australian Style and Australian Beauty, and co-founder and editor of Couturing.com, one of Australia’s most popular fashion, beauty and lifestyle media platforms which has been running for over 10 years.