The Value of a Mentor for Professional Women

Why every woman can benefit from a professional mentor.

In our careers, as in life, we all encounter moments where we need guidance, inspiration or encouragement. How do you secure a raise? How do you balance the demands of home, family and office? How do you make it to the C-suite? For women seeking to advance their careers, especially in traditionally male-dominated fields, female mentors who have accomplished similar career goals—and overcome similar challenges—can be powerful sources of support.

A mentor can provide a depth of experience that only comes from walking in similar shoes. Women experience discrimination at higher rates in certain fields, like STEM. Women are more likely to take time out for caregiving, whether for their children or their parents, especially when there are no other options. A female mentor can often relate to the issues you’re facing and share how she navigated them.

Fortunately, many professional women who have succeeded in finance, banking, tech, business, academia, medicine and other fields believe in the value of encouraging and helping other women in the workplace. They’re ready to pay it forward.

How Can a Mentor Help Me?

Ideally, a mentor will help you build confidence, problem-solve and develop new skills, such as leadership, delegating or advocating for yourself. She can help you realize your weaknesses and maximize your strengths. She can help you figure out the balance of work, family, children and a social life—and that it doesn’t mean achieving perfection in each of those arenas, but rather working toward achievable goals.

Working with a mentor is more than an emotional boost. Studies have shown mentorship leads to positive career outcomes—tangible results like more job offers, salary increases and promotions. That may be in part because mentors not only teach skills and share expertise, they also open up their network. This can be a vital pathway to accessing opportunities a woman might not otherwise have, and a means to closing the gender gap in leadership and pay.

What Should I Look for in a Mentor?

Your mentor doesn’t have to have exactly the same life experience as you, or even work in the same role or field—although that can be beneficial. Most importantly, she will have achieved some of the goals that you aspire to or has a skill that you want to learn. Looking to improve at something specific in your career? Choose a mentor who is great at that thing.

Even outside of a formal mentorship, you can take advantage of the wisdom of the smart and accomplished women you know. Sometimes it can be as straightforward as asking a respected and trusted colleague or manager how you can grow and improve. It may be a formal or an informal conversation.

How Do I Make the Most of a Mentorship?

This is a relationship you’ll be nurturing, ideally over months or even years, so don’t rush it—start by talking about why you’re seeking mentorship, ask for advice and then listen.

A mentor is paying it forward. Be respectful and appreciative of her time. Decide in advance what time commitment you’re asking for, and come to your meetings prepared with specifics of what you want to discuss. Even better, contact her beforehand with your questions or concerns so you maximize your time together.

Be prepared to be challenged.

How Do I Find a Mentor?

Like most good job opportunities, mentors are best found through your network. Be specific and targeted when asking your existing connections for introductions.

You can expand outside your personal network by attending conferences or seminars with people in your field or like-minded professionals. Maybe a presenter or speaker inspires you; take the opportunity to connect in person and follow up by email.

Talk to Your Regions Wealth Advisor About:

  1. How you can navigate the pay gap in your career.
  2. What lessons you can pass down to your daughters about career goals.

Interested in talking with an advisor but don’t have one?

Find a contact in your area.

Mentoring Resources for Women

A few networking ideas to help you find a mentor.

  • Join your college or university’s alumni association, or attend in-person events, to expand your network. And check out your alma mater’s online career center, which should offer advice and ideas for young grads and older alumni alike.
  • Seek out identity-based resources, if you’re underrepresented in your field. Perhaps there is an organization of women in your company, your career field or one that you hope to pursue. Many such organizations are devoted to helping women advance their careers and include mentorship opportunities. Examples include:
    • The Black Career Women’s Network fosters the professional growth of black women.
    • Latinas in Business is a community of writers and company owners advocating for Latina empowerment in business and the workplace.
    • Million Women Mentors is a network dedicated to helping women thrive in STEM careers.
    • Women in Finance empowers women in that field to achieve their professional potential at every phase of their careers.
    • The Healthcare Business Women’s Association aims to further the advancement of women in the field.
    • American Medical Women’s Association provides and develops leadership, advocacy, education, expertise and mentoring for women in medicine.
  • Contribute to a volunteer or charitable endeavor. You will be giving back and connecting with new people, perhaps outside your existing professional network. Skill-sharing volunteering, in particular, allows you to use your professional expertise to benefit others.

This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.