Globally women are scaling up at rates proportionately higher than men in entrepreneurship, especially in the developing countries. On the other hand, many women-led ventures fail due to a lack of support and gender biases that discounts women’s leadership. One of the most significant parts of supporting a business is mentoring. Right mentorship can help in not only business growth and expansion but often in business survivability, especially in the case of entrepreneurs in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Start-ups.
Ninety-two percent of small business owners believe that mentors have a direct impact on their business’s growth and survival, especially till a business stabilizes and reaches its break-even point.
According to the Rose review, mentoring and help could result in a £250bn boost for the UK economy. Research from SCORE found that 87% of entrepreneurs with mentorship continue in business after the first year, as opposed to 75 percent of those without a mentor.
The right modality and timely advice that an entrepreneur gains from good mentoring are priceless. A study by Development Dimensions International found that 63 percent of women never had a formal mentor.
Need For Mentorship
Research says, women leaders often become the victims of the Impostor Syndrome (IS) where they tend to doubt their capabilities and accomplishments, leading to feelings of fear of inadequacy. Research says that the higher the capability of women, the greater the likelihood of the Impostor Syndrome. The possibilities of men having IS almost little to none. In such cases, a mentor’s role is of great importance.
A woman mentor can remind her Mentee of her capabilities and worth from time to time. She can give the necessary appreciation and validation while pointing out the scope for improvement.
Women entrepreneurs are also likely to falter in pitching for investor funding. According to the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) annual report, men start their business with an initial capital six times that of women in the most successful companies. As a pattern, men usually inflate their numbers while seeking business capital from investors; women usually tend to be realistic and not exaggerate numbers. It often backfires, and they end up with lesser capital than they asked. This is where mentors can be of great help. An experienced mentor can guide women entrepreneurs with the tricks of the trade and lead them to seek more capital, which eventually leads to more expansion and profit. Mentors can further guide women entrepreneurs in online funding, too, where women scope better or equal to men according to research.
How Mentorship can help Women Entrepreneurs
As a rule, a mentor helps the business as a consultant, a Counsellor, and a Cheerleader – the three C’s of mentorship.
Consultants have expertise in various domains across various industries. Naturally, they are highly beneficial for timely advice related to business operations. Their insights and prudence can steer an organization to a position of maximum profitability with a wise investment. They can save an entrepreneur from bad decisions from their wisdom, vision, and experience. Additionally, at the time of change and transformation in a business, consultants help in the smooth transition while ensuring that the business doesn’t lose its original objectivity.
Counselor: It is imperative to have a Mentor as a critique, a good listener, and a supportive guide without giving away answers to every question asked by Mentee. A mentee should learn their valuable lessons by making their own mistake and experience an insightful journey along. Therefore mentors should just offer support and guidance but not solutions to problems faced. The Mentee should figure their way out.
Cheerleaders: Tiding one’s way through cutting edge competition and high demands in business could involve great stress. A mentor with an empathetic approach can provide a listening ear and provide necessary guidance. A mentor often has past experiences in either handling one’s own business or catering to a client. A mentor can help in cheering-up spirits when businesses go through a crisis.
Leadership Style – Men Vs. Women
Women mentors have a powerful role to play in helping women entrepreneurs as they are more likely to relate to their social and emotional challenges. When it comes to entrepreneurship, women are more susceptible to challenges that are different than their male counterparts.
The societal expectation is one of the biggest hurdles for a woman entrepreneur. Women are expected to have the family-approach and usually have greater demands at home. Moreover, women still struggle to be taken seriously when it comes to leadership in a male-dominated world. The male idea of leadership usually involves a Competitive and Aggressive approach. That style of leadership is time-tested, and although it has many flaws, it is widely understood, counted, and accepted. The women’s style of leadership is usually more Creative, Collaborative, and Transformative. The world has still not got attuned to the women-style of leadership.
Hence women often feel pressured to adopt a masculine approach to handle their business though science has shown that women and men have ‘separate and unequal’ ways to the top. However, research has found that the feminine leadership style has many merits. Yet, many women are skeptical about their leadership strategies, particularly because of prejudice and lack of familiarity with their unique leadership style. It creates doubts which hamper the outcome of the business. Here montors plays a huge role in guiding the women entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and their leadership style & capabilities.
Void of Female Role Models
A woman mentor can understand the overall challenges of a woman entrepreneur and can guide her holistically. The lack of sufficient role models in women entrepreneurship is a major void. There is a saying — “You cannot be what you cannot see.” Women in business need to have good role models to draw inspiration and encouragement from the mentors. This gap can be filled with strong mentoring, which can give women business owners the necessary insights and validation that she needs to run a business.
According to Inc, 48 percent of women feel the lack of sufficient mentoring as a major hurdle in business growth. Ironically, only 1 out 4 women in companies are ready to mentor. Also, as per Development Dimensions International (DDI), women don’t proactively seek out mentors. More than 63 percent of the women surveyed in the study reported that they have never had a formal mentor.
How to Choose and Find the Right Mentor
It is clear that in terms of mentoring, there is a lack of proper channels to connect mentors and mentees. So, how can women entrepreneurs find the right mentor?
Before finding the right mentoring support, a women entrepreneur should get as much clarity as possible on the areas where she needs mentoring.
- It is wise to conduct self-assessment to get clarity on strengths, weaknesses, and business vision. There are many self-assessment tests online, to help existing and potential women entrepreneurs. gain clarity.
- While choosing the right mentor, it is important to look out certain traits such as a role model who is inspiring, has a positive outlook, and has an open mind. One should also look for a personality that remains unruffled in adversity, someone who welcomes change and transformation in business and has clarity in her modalities of business functioning.
- It might be alluring to look for a charismatic entrepreneur as a mentor who barely made mistakes and got things on a silver platter in the hope to get easily connected to the right channels for business expansion. While such leaders may be useful in some cases, they may not always be the best choice for mentoring. Most such entrepreneurs may not be able to empathize with failures due to wrong decisions and may lack the necessary patience required for mentoring.
- The business prudence in a mentor often comes out of the experience, and a history of mistakes that led to learning and wisdom. It is important to look for qualities of transparency in a mentor. She should be comfortable embracing her own journey and past mistakes to share valuable business insights.
- Another essential factor to consider is commitment and availability. Many businesses at various points meet urgency and need a quick decision. Under such circumstances, a mentor should be available for ready advice and quick decision.
- Lastly, the likeability, ease of interaction, and good chemistry is a must. Familiarity, trust, and comfort build-up when the chemistry between mentor and Mentee ensures that there is no hesitation or embarrassment while sharing bitter stories of failure.
There are various support networks for women-led enterprises like the Ellevate network, WIN Conference, eWomenNetwork, etc. There are many entrepreneur mentoring sites like The SCORE that helps a woman entrepreneur link to the right person to look up to. Lookout for some more channels in Singapore where we can find business mentors best suited for your requirement –
- Lean IN Singapore – Connect extraordinary Women and encourage them to lean in. #MENTORSHIPMATTERS
- Protégé – A mentorship program for the development of women entrepreneurs
- WeSummit (Women Entrepreneur) – It helps to connect and pair Experienced business leaders to women entrepreneurs to provide valuable resources and guidance.
- Financial Women Association Singapore (FWA) – Initiated a program for women in the Financial sector and seeking professional guidance.
The need for special mentoring for higher growth of women in business is clearly established. To achieve the same, the public and private company policies should especially ensure that more women need to look out actively for mentors for upscaling their business. At the same time, they must be inclined to mentor other women who need them.
There should be more communities and forums for women entrepreneurs to help them connect to the right mentors. Also, women should harp upon their personal networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media platforms. These platforms can help them to connect with mentors and industry leaders. More organizations should establish mentoring programs and encourage women to participate in discussions actively. Various research and statistics across the globe are time and again, indicating that women have the mettle to shatter every glass ceiling and be great leaders. All it takes is a great mentor to help a woman be her best.