Mentoring women in business
Becoming a business mentor is a rewarding way to share your expertise, knowledge and experience, to help women achieve business success.
Mentoring others can bring additional benefits, including improving your communication and leadership skills, sharing ideas, and expanding your business networks.
To begin mentoring you could join a formal mentoring program or informally mentor friends, acquaintances or business colleagues.
Learn more about becoming a business mentor.
Increasing confidence and self-belief
Some women report being unsure of themselves and may be uncertain about how to take action. Receiving mentoring advice is one way to overcome uncertainty and can help kick-start a new business or grow an established one.
Low self-confidence can also affect some women in business. When you don't have confidence to start and grow your business, it can hold you back from employing staff and being more entrepreneurial and innovative. It may even cause an early business exit.
Behaviours associated with lack of confidence may include:
- doubting their ability to achieve goals
- questioning their ability to succeed
- wanting to be 100% sure before moving forward
- comparing themselves unfavourably to others.
In your mentoring role, you can help your mentee to identify self-confidence issues and encourage them to challenge beliefs that lead to self-doubt. This can help to change their mindset and improve self-confidence.
Mentoring can also help your mentee to identify beliefs that hold them back, give them an opportunity to voice fears, and consider the impacts those fears have on their work.
By providing good advice and demonstrating trust in your mentee's abilities, you can help them to get the right information and develop the right mindset to succeed.
Self-doubt and behaviour
Some women are exposed from childhood to cultural stereotypes that suggest they are less capable than men. Internalising these views can contribute to an unhelpful lack of self-belief.
Many business situations can also trigger unhelpful beliefs and contribute to negative emotions. Negative emotions, such as fear, anger or worry can trigger a 'fight or flight' response. This in turn can contribute to anxiety, increased heart rate, breathlessness, nausea and an inability to think clearly.
In an effort to avoid negative experiences or perceived threats, a mentee may display the following behaviours:
- avoiding opportunities to market themselves publicly
- waiting until they get more training or become more qualified before taking the next step
- delaying action until they are 100% certain of success
- excusing themselves from speaking up, presuming they have nothing worthwhile to say
- sabotaging their own success because they don't think they 'deserve it'
- refusing to take calculated risks to grow their business.
Sharing your own personal experiences about facing and overcoming business challenges demonstrates you're in control of your own success, and are continuing to learn and grow from demanding situations.
By helping them to develop a 'growth' or 'possibility' mindset, your mentee will start to see challenging, negative or fearful situations as opportunities to expand, learn and grow.
You can guide a mentee to understand they have choices about the beliefs they use, and that any beliefs they have about themselves can be changed.
With regular practice, a mentee can choose to focus on and develop thoughts and actions which contribute to a more productive mindset.
Steps to shifting mindset
By recognising their own fight or flight behaviours, a mentee can work on shifting unhelpful beliefs.
Ask them to:
- consider internal self-talk and name their fears to help manage fight or flight response
- check beliefs that underpin behaviour and recognise the impact these beliefs are having on their business
- build positive experiences associated with taking calculated risks
- recognise that they are in control of their thinking by taking responsibility rather than blaming other people, events or situations
- take practical steps to change unhelpful thoughts and beliefs.
Manage your expectations
- Don't expect overnight changes. Shifting a mindset can take time and effort.
- Give your mentee time to consider options and solutions. Allow them time to work it out for themselves.
- Start where your mentee is currently at, so they don't feel threatened and downplay what they think they can achieve.
- Don't feel pressured to address confidence issues. Simply providing reassurance can be enough before moving on to more practical approaches.
- Register as a mentor in the Mentoring for Growth (M4G) program.
- Your industry association or business network may have a mentoring program.
- Last reviewed: 28 Jun 2019
- Last updated: 22 Jul 2020