I got started thinking about mentoring during one of the panels at the Ms. JD conference this weekend. I can't help but wonder why I've always seemed to have a hard time finding a mentor and holding onto her. Whenever I've been somebody's mentor it didn't pan out as I'd imagined either. In fact, the most successful mentor/mentee relationships that I've ever had have been with men. However, I recognize that finding a woman mentor is extremely important and that, someday, being a productive mentor to another woman will also crucial. The panelists at the particular session that I am thinking about talked a lot about mentoring and how important it is to find a good mentor. That same panel talked a lot about how women treat other women, how we judge each other, and how we are hard on one another. The panel didn't really go into how to find a good mentor, be a good mentor, or how to overall stop judging each other. I think the two things-- mentoring and judging -- are intertwined. The truth is that women judge one another. We've done it since we were pre-teens and continue to do so into adult life. We all recognize that this is counterproductive yet...the practice continues. If fact, it is encouraged by our appearance-obsessed, self-help, talk-show society. I do it and I am the subject of it. I hate to be judged. See this related post at www.ms-jd.org/role-models-and-moms-judging-moms A mentoring relationship doesn't have any special magic about it that removes the judging. To ask somebody formally to be a mentor or even to just open yourself up with questions and concerns invites judging. To agree to be a mentor also invites judging by the other women. How do you overcome that? Also, where does the burden to initiate and maintain a mentoring relationship rest? On the mentor? On the mentee? My take on it is that women should seek out a mentor for themselves. Yes, experienced and successful women need to make themselves available, but I think the burden of initiation rests on the mentee. However, it is difficult for a less experienced woman to judge how the relationship is being perceived by the mentor. Additionally, the mentee is more vulnerable to things like feeling judged by the other woman. Therefore, I think the burden of maintaining the relationship should rest on the mentor. I don't know the answer to the question about how to remove 'judging' each other from the relationship. That one might be impossible. One last point, it has been my experience that formal mentoring programs where junior women are "assigned" to an experienced woman rarely work. The relationship has to be initiated by the junior woman in order for there to be any chance of real questions getting asked and real advice being sought. What do you think?
Become a Member
FREE online community for women in the legal profession.