Dear women in the workforce,
Here’s the good news: more women than at any point in history are at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. We’re making inroads, which is great!
However, here’s the bad news: that’s less than 100 women who are CEOs. As of November, 2011, there were 98 women CEOs of 3,049 publicly traded companies. That is also about 3% of Fortune 500 company CEOs. Not so good.
That being said, that would leave us with 97% men at Fortune 500 helms to help young women move up the ranks. Some women who have made it have stated that men, not other women, helped them get to where they are today, simply because men have been there, done that, while many women just haven’t had the opportunity. And while I personally am lucky enough to have some amazing male mentors on my personal board of directors, I recently had a very negative experience when I attempted to reach out, which leads me to my plea.
There’s an acquaintance in my network that has impressive merits as an online networker. At a career crossroads myself, I thought I would reach out to him and try to learn from him on how he developed such a robust network. However, because I’m younger and female, the online conversation quickly devolved from networking how-tos to what I was wearing and my opinions on lingerie. Furthermore, this person is married.
Gross. Creepy. Disrespectful. After setting the record straight again on why I reached out, I was forced to terminate the conversation after a dead end attempt at learning from this person. Networking and mentoring fail—not to mention that I felt like I stepped into a time machine back into the ultra-sexist 1950s.
A plea to women: mentor other women
What did I learn from this experience? Based upon this story, I think it is now more important than ever for women to help other women. When women mentor other women, the conversation isn’t about a hook up, sex, ego or what I’m wearing (unless, of course, it is about cute shoes for a few seconds). It instead is professional, focuses on business, and most women mentors I know at the helm are professionals—unlike the aforementioned, disappointing scumbag.
Take my fail and turn it into your success, ladies. If you’re a young up and coming professional woman, go out of your way to find other women mentors at the top—we now more than ever have more to choose from. Ladies, if you happen to already be at the top, please do your best to make time and help other young women get to where you have been and help avoid icky situations like the one I recently found myself in…and in advance, thank you for taking the time to help the rest of us out!