When was the last time you took a pause to reflect on all the people who have made an impact on your career and life journey? Some of these people have had a significant influence while others made their mark in smaller ways, but at important moments that mattered. These are members of your “personal advisory board” – a combination of people that have served as supporters that have advocated for you, mentors who have provided counsel, and the advisors and coaches who have motivated and sometimes challenged your thinking.
Looking back on my own journey, I can see vividly the faces of the women and men who have shaped my experiences and influenced my choices. I am grateful for all the times they have asked me questions like “have you ever thought about trying this?”, encouraged me to pursue my goals, and pounded the table with strong support of my performance contributions. Most of all, I am thankful for the people who have taken the time to check in on how I am – to genuinely listen and steady me through the difficult challenges in life and cheered me on to discover exciting new opportunities. My sincerest thank you!
It is now time to give back. We can create a positive ripple effect by serving as advisors or mentors to others. I think that more women can step up to share their experience and have a positive multiplier effect especially for other women.
In this article, I comment on giving back, the benefits that women seek in an advisor relationship, why mentoring is important, and what to consider when creating a personal advisory board.
You do not have to be in an executive role to mentor others. I was late to realize this and only consciously decided to commit time to coach others outside of my team during the last several years.
What I learned is that being an advisor or coach helps to develop leadership skills. Even the most experienced executive can hone their leadership skills. It exercises your emotional intelligence skills and teaches the art of listening and asking probing questions to better understand others.
For women earlier in their careers, serving as a mentor to others is an excellent way not only to develop leadership skills, but also establish a personal brand in having expertise in key competency areas. Whether it is as a mentor to younger women (and men), as a peer advisor, or in a reverse mentoring situation, women earlier in their careers can thrive and enjoy sharing their experience and expertise.
What women tell us about mentoring
My startup recently conducted the Meiava Advisors and Mentors survey. The preliminary results reveals that the top 3 benefits that women seek in a mentoring relationship is to:
- Have a second opinion and diverse perspectives
- Gain support and counsel on their personal goals, and
- Get advice on their career goals and aspirations.
Currently, women tend to rely on internal networks to find advisors and mentors. Yet, many would value an expanded reach to be able to connect with advisors outside of their organization and personal network.
Women we spoke with also shared comments, including that they make it a point to seek out a new advisor or mentor every five years, were fortunate to have a sponsor who created pathways them, and expressed interest to learn how to mentor.
Why mentoring is important for women
While 76% of professionals believe mentorship is important, only 37% have a mentor.
Why is this? Access, identifying advisors that they have an affinity towards, and making time for mentoring are three common reasons.
Women I have spoken with indicate a lack of access to advisors that can ask for support. Formal mentoring programs that employers have for example, may only offer mentoring access to those in a milestone development program. Another reason that I have heard is that they could not readily identify with women (and men) they would view as role models. Finally, many of us are guilty of using the excuse that we are just too busy. Another way said, is that we do not always prioritize enough time for our personal growth and development.
We need to open more opportunities for women to access advisors/supporters. A study by Ergon Zehnder finds that a lack of mentors or advisors was identified by women as a significant career barrier. This was especially the case for Generation X and Millennial women.
Mentoring can elevate more women into leadership roles. A study by Cornell University shows that mentoring dramatically improves promotion and retention rates for minorities and women — 15% to 38% as compared to non-mentored employees. 
Who to have on your personal advisory board?
Chemistry and diversity are important dimensions to consider when selecting advisors.
Like most relationships in life, having the right chemistry is key to the dynamics of the advisor/coaching relationship. Chemistry may take the form of personality, communication styles, energy and motivation, and similarities in beliefs and values.
Think also about gender and ethnic diversity for your personal advisory board. Having both women and men as advisors and those from different ethnic backgrounds provide greater diversity of perspectives.
It is not surprising that nearly 7 in 10 women who have a mentor prefer to seek guidance from another woman. This is understandable as we tend to gravitate to people who are like us. Women relate well with others who have been in similar situations they face – and walked in her shoes, so to speak.
Yet, there can be a lot to be gained from seeking advisors with different backgrounds. For example, men tend to lead differently to women and their advice may offer alternative viewpoints and approaches.
Whatever the mix of people, having supporters around you can make a significant impact for your career and life journey. Extend this ripple effect by making the time to give back to help others too.
Photo by Flamingo Images | Shutterstock.
 Neil, Boatman, Miller. Women as Mentors: Does She, or Doesn’t She? A Global Study of Businesswomen and Mentoring. 2013.
 Egon Zehnder. 2019 Leaders and Daughters Global Survey.
 Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Workplace Mentorship. 24 June 2014.
 Olivet Nazarene University. Mentee Relationships in 2019.