Being a woman in business is, more often than not, a fight. A fight to be taken seriously – to get that promotion and salary you deserve as much as your male colleagues. How difficult your path will be depends on the organisational culture, narratives, silent norms, and behavioural patterns you are exposed to.
This constant fight inevitably contributes to terrifying statistics on burnout among women in business. According to Deloitte’s last years’ report on Women at Work, nearly 40% of women actively looking for a new employer named burnout as the main reason. At the beginning of 2023, we’ve seen some of the most powerful women leaders leaving their jobs at the highest rate ever.
While we should support women taking care of their mental health, and stepping down to prioritise their health, the gap between women and men is only widening. Last year’s report by the United Nations stated that it will take 140 years for women to be equally represented in the workplace. On the other hand, McKinsey research from 2022 showed that more than two-thirds of young women want to be senior leaders. What new environments are needed for women to reach and stay in the leadership roles?
If a company is not going to prioritise mentorship, flexibility, and fair promotion, we are going to see more and more women switching their jobs for better opportunities. I asked a few incredible women in CX about how mentorship helped them grow their careers.
Breaking the privilege perspective on success
‘Hire women, train women, mentor women. Be the vehicle that turns a young woman with big dreams into the badass woman she is destined to be.’– Olivia Perez, Founder of Friend of a Friend
Just because we talk about diversity and equity in the workplace, doesn’t mean we feel safe to talk about it really. And this is where the role of a mentor becomes important. As Mirela Saračević Trogrlić shared in her quote for this article, “the process of mentoring connects two people on so many levels. It is very often a lifetime connection.”
This profound social relation can also encourage representatives of under-represented groups to speak up about their needs. For instance, Latinas and Black women are less likely than women of other races and ethnicities to report their manager supports their career development. This is because they experience less psychological safety.
According to the same research, women with disabilities often have their competence undermined. They are more likely than other groups to have their judgement questioned.
Being included and counted as equal doesn’t mean the same for a woman with an immigrant background who speaks her second or third language with an accent. Imposing Euro-centric ideas on how diversity or independence is being done is also one way of ignorance and patronising attitude.
Women around the world don’t want to become one type of business leader and to ignore the cultural context of what it means to lead, build a community, or leave an impact. For this reason, gender theory and social science studies should be introduced to businesses.
Mentorship is the path forward
In the following paragraphs, I’ll introduce you to the four women who are both mentors and mentees. As you can read from their testimonials, after recognising the power of lifting other women up, creating the environment for them to thrive, they could never stop doing it. And we should never forget strong feminist voices who led us to freedom throughout history.
Before I conclude this piece, I want to mention that males are equally important in this conversation. If we want to create healthy companies, we should never miss an opportunity to facilitate an open – for some still, uncomfortable – conversations between men and women. Only by being transparent with each other can we break silence and competition.
Mirela Saracevic Trogrlic, CX Consultant and owner at CX by Design
‘Everyone needs a mentor regardless of the type of work they do or the experience they have. Mentoring is a fundamental and natural form of human development, learning and interaction.
I consider myself very lucky to have had incredibly smart, wise and kind mentors at the very beginning of my career. Those learnings and insights influenced me very much and shaped me to who I am as a professional. I appreciate these “gifts” so much.
Is there anything more valuable and more human than giving your time, energy, competencies, personal and professional experience to support someone to grow? The process of mentoring connects two people on so many levels, it is very often a lifetime connection.
Mentoring others is even double rewarding process. I would end up with a quote form Benjamin Disraeli who nicely expressed the essence of mentoring: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”’
Frances Chapireau, Founder, BuildCX
‘I was lucky to benefit from a great mentoring program at GfK early in my career. They paired up junior researchers with directors in other departments. Getting an outside perspective is invaluable, as is the continuous process of reflection that regular meetings with a mentor encourages.
My mentors also opened up doors for me, giving me opportunities to experience projects outside of my typical work. A good mentor helps give you clarity, but from a place of experience. Recently, I became a mentor myself through the Women in CX community. I can already say I have been blown away by my mentee – how proactive, enthusiastic and eager to grow she is. Mentors, I think, perhaps have as much to learn from the experience as the mentee, albeit from another perspective.’
Ginger Conlon, Thought Leadership Director at Genesys
‘I never had a formal mentor. The editor-in-chief (my boss) at Sales & Marketing Management magazine informally (and unknowingly) served in that role. He was talented, supportive, and humble and I absorbed everything I could learn from him and applied it with great success in later roles.
Through that experience, the value of mentorship was clear to me. So, I served as a mentor in all my senior roles, working closely with interns, direct reports, and formally assigned mentees (through two companies’ mentor programs). I spent time coaching these colleagues as they honed their goals and drafted plans to achieve them. Seeing so many of those goals come to fruition has been exceptionally rewarding.’
Lynet Owuor, Customer Optimisation & Enablement Leader at AWS
Mentorship has paved the way for success in my career. Little did I know that learning and imitating other successful people’s work in the CX field is also referred to as mentorship. This has been my informal journey with CX mentorship, learning from those who have gone ahead of me.
I have always wanted to do better, try out new ideas and I began studying other successful companies’ roadmap to success following closely on what their CX leaders were doing and then customised them to suit our customers’ needs.
Mentorship has enabled me to learn from others’ mistakes and leaped me forward in applying the strategies that have been proven to work. Mentorship has also emboldened me to think big because only those who have dared to do the unthinkable are leading in their respective industries today. I am here today because others helped me to get here.
Mentorship has kept me in the company of outstanding CX professionals. Together we have continued to raise the bar in the CX field – and, in turn, inspiring and mentoring others along their CX career journeys as well.
Simply put, mentoring, to me, is a way of paying it forward!