Women entrepreneurs are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the business world, and you only need to read the news to realize it. According to CNBC, “The stars have aligned to help trigger the trend as robust ecosystems churn out enterprising females equipped with inspiration, know-how and funding.”
The future for female entrepreneurship is indeed a promising one.
I can’t help but think that the inspiration and know-how in this robust ecosystem is often handed down from someone who has mentored and encouraged women to take the leap towards starting a new business. It’s unfortunate (but true) that there are many young women who have the entrepreneurial spirit and don’t realize it.
Here's how you can encourage and mentor talented women in your company.
Be a proactive mentor
Waiting around isn’t something entrepreneurs do well. We invent, we create–we are constantly moving. This should translate into your mentorship style. Don’t wait for young women who need direction to come to you. More than likely, you have already spotted women in your company who have the spirit and drive but just need a little nudge.
Remember, even entrepreneurs who have the ingredients to be burgeoning businesswomen may not yet have the confidence to approach you. Take the lead. Your example will show them that eventually, they can lead too.
Much is spoken about how mentees should seek out their mentors, but the flip side is also true. After all, it’s a give and take relationship and the mentor stands to learn as well.
Give constructive feedback
I ask myself three questions before I give potentially unpleasant feedback to a mentee: Is it necessary? Is it concise? Is it kind? Yes, kind. There is nothing that says giving constructive feedback has to be harsh or unforgiving. No one’s perfect–not even you.
However, for female entrepreneurs to make it, they have to develop a thick skin. So, if your employee has some areas that could be strengthened, let them know. But don’t forget to point out areas where they are strong too.
Open up about your past struggles
The greatest thing we can offer young women entrepreneurs is our honesty. Our past challenges are a part of who we are as much as our successes, something all beginners will need to understand. Through openly talking about the struggles you have faced and may still face, you demonstrate what all entrepreneurs have in common–we’re human.
What was a barrier? And most importantly, how did you overcome it? The latter is a crucial lesson for new (and seasoned) entrepreneurs.
Create a safe space
Though women businesses are on the rise, there are still still hardships many of us face. But what do female entrepreneurs do best? We create a place for ourselves that didn’t exist before. If you can, create a space within your company where you connect with your mentees.
And if you can’t have a mentorship group within your company, direct your female entrepreneurs to resources–like SCORE–that offer events, workshops, and advancement and development education for women looking to start a venture.
Keep expanding your skills
Whether this means further expanding your management skills or keeping up with the current news and breakthroughs within your industry, you must be a lifelong learner in order to be a lifelong teacher. Thinking you know everything is like hitting a different kind of glass ceiling–a self-imposed one. There is always an opportunity to go further and learn more.
Whether it’s taking refresher management courses, connecting with other entrepreneurs at speaking events and seminars, or talking to your own mentor, keep the passion you had when you were starting out. Soak up knowledge so you always have something valuable to pass on.
Most importantly, be yourself. Your relationships with the women you take under your wing are special, as they should be. Your experience as a female entrepreneur is what makes you uniquely qualified to be their mentor. There is always another someone else, but only one you.