The Combatting Power of Mentoring: Fighting Invisible Barriers at Work

The Combatting Power of Mentoring: Fighting Invisible Barriers at Work

Lidia Heller, often in charge of training sessions that Vital Voices offers, proposes forging relationships between mentors and mentees, and she introduces the gender perspective. According to her, the process requires the participants to agree on the mentoring goals and to create a bond of trust. This will help unlock the creative potential for strategic decision-making and also help acquire new skills for analysis, negotiation and initiative. This would also help expand the communication and contact networks. 

Lidia also wonders (and asks us): What does it mean to speak of a gender perspective in relationships? 

The answer is that it involves making visible (or at least taking into account) that gender-based systems are sets of practices, symbols, representations, rules and social values that societies create based on sexual differences. Social gender relationships are power relationships and, within the social division of labor, they work as the main engine of inequality. 

Achieving gender equality in the workplace and in career development should not be considered just a “women’s issue”. It should be a concern for society as a whole.

When we think about women in the workforce, some of the metaphors used to explain gender phenomena become apparent, such as, for example, the glass ceiling1 the sticky floor2. In addition, there are tensions between work and personal life. We are missing flexible and supporting policies to reconcile family and professional life, and there are also stereotypes about professional development, standards for success and unequal assessment of activities. We lack female role models, female mentors and opportunities for networking. There is an explicit and subtle discrimination that reveals mental models about the roles of women. It is advisable to take the time to learn and reflect on these issues and also form an opinion to guide our attitudes.  

  • Glass ceiling: It is an invisible barrier, difficult to penetrate, which describes a particular time in a woman’s professional career. Instead of going up thanks to her qualifications and experience, she is stuck in a job, trade or sector. The term was originally coined in the 1980s, in a report on female executives published in The Wall Street Journal, and it has extended to all kinds of occupations. It is not a legal obstacle. It is widespread prejudice about women in positions of responsibility, about salary and about giving them similar categories for the same functions believing they will accept less. It also encompasses subtle patriarchal practices of the business world, such as the type of meetings being held, male corporatism or cronyism.
  • Sticky floor: It refers to the tasks of caring and leading a family life that traditionally have been allocated to women. Coming out of this “natural space” (which according to patriarchy belongs to women) is an obstacle for their professional development or for access to training that would allow them to enter the labor force. This concept is related to the “balance” between work at home and outside the home.

Exchanging these ideas with a mentor can provide an opportunity for mentor and mentee to incorporate the gender perspective in their future professional steps. 

Mentoring is the most simple and powerful tool to speed up the development of female leadership. You just need the commitment to invest time, which is the most valuable gift a person can give. 

I firmly believe that mentoring develops leadership, and that practicing it adds enormous value to the entire society. 

Mentoring is a very hands-on experience, especially as conceived by Vital Voices. It creates a relationship of learning and trust between a successful and experienced person and someone who is eager to succeed in their professional and personal journey. Through conversation, work together and shadowing, the apprentices are motivated to discover certain skills and resources. If you are an apprentice, your mentor should inspire you to show these talents and guide you to take the next crucial step towards growth.

Mentoring is an exchange. It is a reciprocal relationship of give and take, in which the mentor enjoys sharing his or her most important learnings, and this, in turn, helps the mentee to grow and step out of the comfort zone

It is true also that mentoring significantly improves both leadership per se and career growth. It gives the mentee the opportunity to appreciate things that could not be seen before, from a greater perspective and with a panoramic, objective and reliable vision. Mentoring gives the mentee the chance to release her full potential as a person, regardless of the organization or startup she works at. It is also worth noting that mentoring provides an opportunity to enter a circle of relationships that is completely new and was previously not part of her network. 

Throughout history, men have mentored new generations of boys and men. These relationships have been extremely effective. It was time that women spent time in practicing this too. For women around the world, today, mentoring is a new and increasingly used method to explore and exploit.

I believe that mentoring has the potential to transform society. The mentoring relationships transcend time, space and industries. They enable a powerful and deep exchange of knowledge, ideas and information, and they generate different perspectives. Mentoring allows us to systematically uncover and strengthen female talent and use it for the common good, helping economies and society as a whole to grow.



A Special Thanks to all Mentors

A Special Thanks to all Mentors

Without having any previous knowledge about mentoring, it turns out that I have had mentors since the beginning of my professional career.

A mentor is a person who guides you, directs you and gives you advice on your professional development. It is a person with whom you can share your everyday issues and with whom you can also talk about crucial concerns in your professional responsibilities. It is someone you trust, both for his or her judgment and in good faith. In a mentoring relationship, you share knowledge, experience, values, emotions, desires and fears related to professional life but also linked to your personal, family and social life.

The concept of mentoring originally comes from the Odyssey, a story by the Greek poet Homer. Before leaving for Troy, Ulysses asked his friend Mentor to prepare his son Telemachus to be a leader. Mentor, then, acted as a model and as a counselor, inspiring Telemachus and presenting him with challenges so that he would become a competent leader. As a leader, he needed to able to succeed his father as king of Ithaca, the beautiful Mediterranean island. And this is how Ulysses achieved the goal of educating his son while he was away.

Since then, the term has been used as a synonym for tutor, guide and counselor, and today it even takes on the meaning of advisor or coach.

As we develop our careers, we face new challenges. We are not always 100% sure of the decisions we must make. Many times, decision-making is very lonely.

However, the process leading to the decision can be very rich if we share our goals, concerns and ideas with others in whom we trust. By expressing their point of view, these people enrich our vision. Many times, they can provide details that we had not considered, or emphasize issues that seemed secondary. The point of view of others always gives us a fuller view of the situation, and that logically leads to better decision-making.

Mentoring is a highly rewarding experience. It is a simple and powerful tool to help women achieve their highest potential and to speed up the development of female leadership.

In my case, the first informal mentoring relationship that I remember started by chance. It was an empathic relationship in which I felt identified with that person and I learned from past experiences, comments and professional vision.

I have now realized that I have always had mentors. And I know that, from now on, I will have them all the time. In general, my mentors are much more experienced than I am. How valuable! Such wisdom to absorb!

Today, I can’t make a list of all the men and women who have been my mentors. The concept is so ingrained in my life that unconsciously I find mutual learning, guidance and counseling in all my relationships.

Each mentor has humbly dedicated time to me with disproportionate generosity, and has given me energy to remain on my chosen path. And this does not mean that I did not stumble!

Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone, my teachers, mentors, guides, colleagues, and friends.

I have a confession to make: being grateful feels a bit “selfish.” I am constantly expressing my appreciation because it makes me happy. I suggest you do it too. Saying thank you improves your quality of life, creates positive experiences, increases your self-esteem, helps you overcome stress and anxiety, and keeps you away from truly selfish and ugly thoughts.

There is no doubt that one of the keys to my personal and professional growth is to be grateful. Another key is to have the chance to be around more experienced people, who have the capacity and willingness to work with me on my development. I encourage you to try it too. Perhaps you realize that you already have a mentor, or several. What a pleasant surprise!

A Special Thanks to all Mentors

El Poder del Mentoreo: Ser una Lider en MAYUSCULAS, por Maria Gabriela Hoch

Después de todos estos años de estar trabajando con mujeres líderes a lo largo y ancho de varias partes del mundo, de diferentes organizaciones, industrias, culturas, encontré un denominador común a pesar de todas las diferencias y particularidades. Este denominador me hizo repensar y reconocer un nuevo paradigma con respecto a lo que es ser una LIDER en mayúsculas.

Una buena líder, ante todo ESCUCHA. Cuando aceptas un rol de liderazgo, ya sea en una organización social, de negocios o un proyecto comunitario – es crucial entender tu entorno. Conocerlo profundamente. Hacer preguntas y escuchar a todos los que te rodean, a todos los que te acompañan en la consecución de tus objetivos, entender quiénes son, qué necesitan, qué los moviliza, qué los motiva. Todas las personas tienen un hondo deseo de ser escuchadas y los verdaderos líderes reconocen esa necesidad en los otros y la satisfacen. Los verdaderos líderes, mujeres y hombres, encuentran soluciones sustentables a los problemas que encuentran porque justamente logran un entendimiento y conexión cabal con la gente y su comunidad.

Una buena líder COMPARTE EL PODER. Las líderes más efectivas comparten una creencia en común: “el poder se expande a medida que lo compartimos”. Si liderás sola o solo para vos, seguro no llegarás a ningún lado. Justamente, aprovecha tu lugar de liderazgo para empoderar a otros, para hacerlos brillar. De esta manera, tu impacto, y el impacto de los demás, se multiplica notoriamente. Ya mencionamos la importancia de las redes de mujeres como aceleradores de su liderazgo. Adoptémoslo como una verdad universal. Es un hecho fáctico: con acceso a círculos de influencia las mujeres están infinitamente mejor posicionadas para reconocer el cambio y acceder a posiciones de liderazgo.

Una buena líder BUSCA MENTORES y además SE CONVIERTE EN MENTORA. Otra verdad universal que deberíamos adoptar es que el mentoreo promueve el liderazgo. Sin duda alguna, las mentoras que eligieron invertir en mí me ayudaron a encaminar mi propio camino. La mentora no es alguien que te da una mano sólo para llevarte un paso más adelante, sinoalguien que está y se queda parada detrás tuyo pierdas o ganes, es una alianza. Una buena mentora celebra tus logros, pero una mejor, te alienta a que aprendas de tus errores. Te aconsejo fuertemente que busques mentoras adentro y afuera de tus entornos y círculos. Busca mentoras con quienes puedas hacer una asociación/alianza mientras estés desarrollándote en tu liderazgo.

Pero lo más importante de todo, lo que me gustaría puntualizarte especialmente, es ¡que seas vos misma quien se transforme en una mentora! Compartí tu sabiduría, contactos, talentos y habilidades. Fomenta una reacción en cadena benéfica, donde el resultado sea mayor participación de la mujer en la sociedad, un mundo más justo y equitativo para todas y todos. Según el estudio de Catalyst en 2012, el 65% de las mujeres que fueron mentoreadas, se volvieron mentoras ellas mismas.

El liderazgo es una práctica cotidiana. Es una decisión que tomamos. No existe el momento o la oportunidad perfecta para empezar a liderar. No “se llega” a un lugar para liderar. Se lidera desde el lugar donde estamos. El liderazgo no es un destino final como ya mencionamos, sino que es un camino, un proceso, una elección de vida.

Debemos ser abiertas y estar dispuestas a aceptar y entender que el desarrollo de nuestro estilo de liderazgo es un proceso continuo de aprendizaje y evolución. Incluso siendo una líder emergente, tenés la habilidad y responsabilidad de liderar significativamente, de dejar un legado.



Tuve la fortuna de poder conversar con Eduardo Chaktoura sobre el último capítulo de mi libro, en mi casa, a diez días de su inesperada y triste partida. Traigo a colación esta historia porque me dejó varias enseñanzas que quisiera compartir con vos.

El entusiasmo que tenía por el lanzamiento inminente de su libro “Inteligencia Espiritual”, hizo que lo recibiera y abriera las puertas de mi casa para que realizara una presentación previa frente a treinta amigas. Nos deleitó con su carisma y enfáticas aseveraciones sobre atrevernos a vivir la vida que queremos. Que era posible. Que solo requería de nuestro compromiso a desarrollar nuestra propia inteligencia espiritual, que es precisamente la capacidad de conocernos verdaderamente a nosotros mismos, de trazar la dirección de nuestra vida y saber atravesar las circunstancias que nos tocaran. Que saldríamos fortalecidas y que lo mejor de todo es que la oportunidad para el cambio depende de nuestra voluntad y actitud con la que nos dispongamos a vivir. Quienes mas entrenen su creatividad, flexibilidad y perseverancia, más probabilidades tendrán de acumular riqueza espiritual.

Sin saberlo, ese encuentro fue el empujón final que necesitaba para darle forma en mi cabeza al último capítulo de este libro. Pues si bien sabía que trataría sobre la cadena de favores, el honrar la vida, y el liderazgo trascendental y sustentable, había algo más, y no encontraba la manera de unirlo.

En el cafecito final que nos tomamos juntos cuando todas se fueron, le comenté sobre mi libro, de qué trataba y el desafío que tenía por delante para englobar todo lo que daba vueltas en mi mente y en mi alma.

Que no solo era HACER, sino SER; y no solo con PASIÓN, sino también con COM-PASION. Que no solo era EMPODERAR, sino EMPODERARTE. Que no solo se trata de CONOCER, sino de CONOCERTE, adentrarte, sumergirte en un trabajo de introspección.   Que el ENTUSIASMO no era porque sí, sino por la VIDA, por DEVOLVER A LA VIDA y HONRARLA.

Que todos tenemos en común que queremos ser FELICES, que la felicidad nace de la GRATITUD, que todos podemos encontrar nuestro MÉTODO para vivir en gratitud. Que esto es el ÉXITO, la felicidad y la armonía que logramos en todos los aspectos de nuestra vida… Una vida llena de SENTIDO, de SIGNIFICADO, de TRASCENDENCIA de tus acciones, del legado que dejás en el mundo… Y que se trata de desarrollar tu LIDERAZGO ESPIRITUAL, tu INTELIGENCIA ESPIRITUAL…

Le dije que el título de su libro me parecía maravilloso…

Me escuchó atentamente, intercambiamos ideas y nos entusiasmamos mutuamente. Me alentó a seguir con la tarea y me dijo que me ayudaría incluso a publicarlo… Eso no pudo pasar… Aunque quizá sí, desde donde esté… nunca lo sabremos.

Su libro llegó finalmente a mis manos por casualidad -aunque hace rato no creo en las casualidades sino en las causalidades, y más aun en las sincronicidades. Me lo devoré en un día. Y cuando seguía compungida rememorando nuestra conversación de apenas seis meses atrás, con sus gestos y su voz, me dí cuenta de que ese día era su cumpleaños. Se me erizó la piel. Mi humilde homenaje es alentarlas a leer su obra maestra.

Como él mismo escribió en su epílogo “no sé qué ocurrirá a partir de ahora, pero tengo la sensación de haber cumplido un objetivo… Me entrego a lo que vendrá. Puedo imaginar muchas cosas que podrían ocurrir a partir de este momento, pero intento detener mi mente y volver a estar plenamente presente aquí y ahora en estas ultimas líneas. Es el final de un nuevo comienzo”.

Nuestro gran desafío, o por lo menos el mío, ahora es integrar el liderazgo transformador y el liderazgo espiritual…Manifestar una existencia con propósito evolutivo…

Gabriel Avruj en su pequeño pero poderoso y contundente libro llamado “Liderazgo Espiritual” describe este concepto de la siguiente manera: “Liderazgo espiritual es hacer que la vida tenga sentido. Es recordar el motivo trascendente por el que estamos aquí y fluir con esa energía transformadora. Es plantarse ante el mundo y gritar: ¡Yo voy primero!… convertirnos en líderes de nuestras propias vidas. Al hacerlo, podemos inspirar a otros a que también lo hagan”. Y agrega: “La clave es convertirse en líder de uno mismo. Estar enfocados en la visión en la que nos gustaría vivir y actuar coherentemente con ella. Solo así lograremos ayudar eficientemente a otros (…) Muchas veces, para creer que esto es posible, necesitamos vernos reflejados en las experiencias de otros. Podemos inspirarnos y pensar: si tú puedes, quizá yo también pueda. Tú me das esperanza”. Y remata: “El liderazgo es espiritualidad en acción. Adquirir la oportunidad de ser un modelo para otros acarrea gran responsabilidad, pero es el mayor servicio que podemos brindar…. Un líder no es quien tiene más seguidores, sino quien es capaz de formar más líderes…”.

¿Cuántas veces te habrás preguntado, o habrás escuchado la pregunta como al viento: Líder  se nace o se hace? Ambos. El líder NACE y SE HACE, se va haciendo, se va desarrollando, se va construyendo…

Todas somos líderes, tenemos que buscar en nuestro interior, desarrollar nuestros talentos, llevarlos a la máxima potencia, autorizarnos y desplegar nuestros dones para aportar y contribuir con nuestra única e invalorable gota de agua al mar, pues sin ella, el mar tendría una gota menos, tal como dijo la madre Teresa de Calcuta.



The ME in MEntoring

The ME in MEntoring

If we are lucky, maybe when we are young professionals, our parents’ experience will be available to us, or an uncle’s or an aunt’s. Or another relative can enlighten us about what professional life is like in practice. They can tell us how they did it, and what challenges and opportunities they faced.

Similarly, if we are able to count on the experience of other professionals who have also been successful in their careers, I think this would make an excellent opportunity for new generations.

I want to publicly thank the more than 200 women (only in Argentina) who have become mentors in our programs. It really seems to me that sharing their experience with someone else is a symbol that encompasses an act of generosity, of greatness, of dedication, of commitment and even love. It is invaluable.

Being a mentor is also an act of great humility, humanity and solidarity. It has to do with identifying ourselves as human. Your mistakes and your good choices are human; your successes and your failures are human too. It is about someone else showing you a way from his or her own perspective. They are showing you one “way” of doing things, his or her own method, and it does not have to be the only way or the best way. It is the way they did it. It is what worked for them, what resonated or simply flowed.

Besides, to me, mentoring is an act of great fortitude, because you know that your recipe might not “resonate” with your apprentices. They have different styles and lifestyles, or it might not work for them for other reasons. Without doubt, you know that you can inspire them, they can learn from your experience, and you can help them “not to trip over the same stone.” You can inspire them to be assertive and discover what they want to create Journal of a and what they want to reflect, so they can choose the path they want to take on their own… And I find that just amazing!

I love it when the mentor-mentee duos are synergistic, and when feedback and enrichment drive the dyad. However, I also understand that sometimes, at first sight, you can’t find something in common with the person that was assigned to you or that you chose as a mentor or mentee. But you know what? I think the challenge is divine! And by “divine” I mean that it was designed by the universe. Let’s call it “synchronicity,” “god’s work” or “a trick of fate.” It is an amazing challenge. You can benefit from it, and even be transformed.

In the three weeks that I shared with my mentor, I didn’t feel personally or emotionally connected. I expected a connection, although I must admit that maybe she was just a mirror of myself, and it was I who was not prepared to make a connection. I was just a spectator of her professional performance. In spite of that, I thought it was extremely enlightening. I was able to learn a lot, more than I thought.

I was able to learn in a positive and in a negative way. On the positive side, I took all the tools I could adopt, or reaffirm, for my own work. And on the negative side, I was able to see ways that were definitely not what I wanted. Seeing my own reflection there was the perfect Journal of a opportunity to reconsider and challenge myself to find other ways.

However, I also learned that, sometimes, it does not matter how much you want to do things differently, you just can’t. You can’t because have a super tight schedule, for example, and there is not enough time to spare, so you have to choose and prioritize. That is also a learning. Not always are others going to be exactly in the same frequency as you. And sometimes, others may not be able to do things differently either.

And that, in itself, is another learning.

This happens because your agenda does not just list professional items; it also has personal issues. There is only one agenda. Life is not professional or personal. There is only one life and it is about relationships… with yourself, with others, with your god, with the planet Earth or the universe…

What I value about the most recent times is that not only did I learn how to recognize feminine virtues, but I also found my own truth… my inner voice, my core power. We are all mentors and mentees throughout our life and at different times during our journey.