Robert, Véronique (May, 1999). Career - Mentoring Women Helping One Another. Châtelaine (Quebec Edition), +
"Do not hesitate to phone a woman you admire" recommends one of the interviewed mentors. When she was 22, Edith Germain contacted her female MP about a scholarship that was being denied to her. Even though she did not get the scholarship in the end, Ms. Germain gained an unwavering confidence. The first door she knocked on opened up, and this is priceless.
According to Renée Houde, a professor of communications, our society urgently needs mentors, especially for women who have fewer models around them. The break-up of family structures and increased mobility of the workforce have reduced intergenerational bridges and transfer of knowledge. This explains the renewed interest in mentoring among Francophones as it is a well-established tradition in anglophone circles.
Good mentors must be open to others, mature and care about their partners careers and personal lives. As mentors are volunteers, they should feel like sharing their knowledge and possess good listening and helping skills. Women calling on mentors identify more with women mentors, particularly when it comes to juggling work and family life.
Being a mentor does not mean giving out recipes for holding specific positions. Mentors should help partners identify their aspirations, realise their strengths and make choices. Women need more help to become aware of their own worth. Needless to say, mentors are especially helpful during transition periods (career changes, etc.) by assisting partners in identifying options.
For one mentor, the mentoring relationship is a winning, not a magical formula. Partners should see their mentors as models and feel admiration for them. One woman lawyer appreciated the fact that her mentor had had a career in law and politics while raising three children. Still according to that mentor, a protégé should have at least two mentors: one for a comprehensive approach to life and the other for her career.
There are several types of mentoring. Traditional mentors are met randomly and outside the workplace. There are also formal mentoring programs that meet the needs of work and education environments. To be successful, these must follow selection criteria for both potential partners and mentors, facilitate productive matches and include a follow-up. Mentors too need to be trained and coached.
In some programs, mentors must take training at the same time as their protégés. This can amount to 2 days a month, on top of the individual meetings, a sizeable workload especially for non-wage earners. However, mentors gain the moral satisfaction of seeing their young protégés succeed and they develop their own networks by meeting other mentors and protégés. It is rewarding to be taking part in other peoples learning, to be in touch with youth and to take care of the upcoming generation. The article also explores affective relationships between participants.
There are more women than men who want to become protégés but far fewer to offer themselves as mentors (only 30% in a matching program involving university graduates and students). But the situation could improve as women who benefited from the assistance of mentors are in turn more likely to become mentors themselves.
Box item "Where to find a mentor?"
Informal mentoring is not new within businesses, but so far, it has mostly benefited men. Companies such The Royal Bank intend to establish structured programs as in general, custom-made programs matching with an experienced employee yield better results than standard training programs. Nevertheless, mentoring programs remain more frequent in the world of networks and associations. For example the programs of the Junior Bar Association and of some school boards that attempt to prevent youth from dropping out of school. The "Women in Municipal Politics" committee is a group of elected municipal councillors in the Estrie region of Quebec where the number of women mayors has recently doubled. But the area where mentoring is predominant is the business sector; for example, the Quebec Business Women Network offers two courses where women participants are assigned female mentors with a 95% success rate!