Forming Mentoring Relationships for Women’s Advancement
This article was originally published on ISSA.com on July 29, 2022.
Although much progress has been made, the McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2021 report found that women professionals continue to experience disproportionate burnout and lack equal representation at the highest levels of leadership. For example, between entry-level and C-suite positions, the percentage of women of color drops by more than 75%.
To give women the knowledge they need to advance their careers, handle professional challenges such as burnout and work-life balance, and gain leadership skills, ISSA Hygieia Network has founded a free mentoring program to connect women in the cleaning industry for one-on-one mentoring relationships.
Connecting through ISSA Hygieia Network
Through the ISSA Hygieia Network Mentoring Program, several leaders in the cleaning industry have connected with professionals to provide advice and support. Laura Craven, vice president of Marketing and Communications at Imperial Dade, signed up to give back what many had given her in her career.
“I was fortunate to have mentors early on in my career that provided guidance and support,” said Craven. “They were very impactful to my professional and personal growth. Now it’s my turn to help others and meet new people.”
So far, Craven has connected with three mentees through the ISSA Hygieia Network mentoring program. Her current mentee is Kenisha Middlebrooks, associate manager of Commercial Warranty at TTI Floor Care North America. After coming across several ISSA Hygieia Network posts on LinkedIn, Middlebrooks started attending webinars and became more involved in the community. Then, she decided to sign up for the mentoring program.
“I have been a mentor in multiple areas of my life through work, church, and school,” said Middlebrooks. “I decided it was time to develop my career through formal networking and mentorship. I wanted to challenge myself to be vulnerable and get an experienced opinion from leaders within the cleaning industry.”
Forming a successful mentoring relationship
Creating a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship requires engagement and preparation from both parties. When beginning mentoring relationships, explained Craven, “I start with learning what my mentee’s goals are for the relationship and then for each conversation. Planning for each session helps us both maximize the time we have together.”
Middlebrooks entered her relationship hoping to gain advice and tools to grow her career in the cleaning industry. “I gained so much more,” she said. In their mentoring sessions, Craven and Middlebrooks have discussed practical strategies to improve work-life balance. “We talked about how to set proper boundaries while being accessible for escalated issues, including a tip to charge my work phone in a different room,” shared Middlebrooks.
Additionally, the pair covered important leadership skills, including meeting facilitation. “Laura suggested useful tips to keep meetings on track,” explained Middlebrooks. “The actionable steps were creating a clear meeting agenda with a presentation deck and a follow-up email to ensure alignment.”
Craven has also implemented new tactics to help her mentees like Middlebrooks grow. “I also like to send my mentee articles and other information via email that I think she will enjoy and learn from,” said Craven. “The one thing that I have added recently to my approach is taking a few minutes during each call to talk about self-care and encouraging my mentee to make herself and her family a priority.”
As the mentoring relationship continues, Middlebrooks has been surprised by her own growth. “I was surprised at how comfortable our conversations became. I truly feel safe to discuss situations to gain valuable feedback,” she added. “Through this relationship, I have been able to establish work-life boundaries, begin to advocate for myself without feeling guilty, and most importantly, become a better leader!”
Advancing mentees, mentors, and all women professionals
Mentoring relationships benefit the mentor as well as the mentee. In her experience, Craven notes that being a mentor has given her great fulfillment. “Helping someone work through challenges by being a good listener and guiding them towards making the best decisions for their situation is rewarding,” she explained. “It is an investment of time, energy, and thought—but so very worthwhile. The relationships can be brief, or some can last a lifetime. Either way, they are fulfilling.”
Facilitating mentoring relationships also impacts the advancement of women professionals in the cleaning industry and business in general. “Women in all industries face challenges, but there are glass ceilings that often keep women in entry-level to middle manager roles,” noted Middlebrooks. “Mentoring opens their eyes to see the women sitting in director, vice president, and CEO seats at world-class organizations.”
Additionally, mentoring relationships can expand professionals’ understandings of key business topics such as inclusion and leadership. “Through mentoring, I have learned how important workplace inclusiveness and allyship are to women—especially women of color—in our industry,” said Craven.
Similarly, Middlebrooks has gained a deeper understanding of leadership and the importance of knowing your worth as a professional. “Leadership is not black and white, but looks different depending on the scope and company,” added Middlebrooks. “I learned that flexibility is one of the biggest tools, while being mindful of your worth. Your health in all aspects directly impacts your work.”
Mentorship for everyone
Giving employees access to formal mentoring can help companies demonstrate their commitment to each team member’s professional development. “Mentorship fuels professional growth, which leads to better performance, which leads to better results,” Craven added. “It should be a formal part of every company’s strategy.”
For more information on how to join the ISSA Hygieia Network Mentoring Program, visit mentoring.hygieianetwork.org.
Dr. Felicia L. Townsend is the program director for the ISSA Hygieia Network. She can be reached at [email protected].