Do You Need a Male Mentor to Climb the Career Ladder?

Wait.  Before you shoot the messenger, let me elaborate on having a male mentor on your side.  I recently participated in a women’s mentoring program at my company.  A female friend of mine remarked that all the mentors were male and was then offended.  She scoffed at the idea that management thinks professional women need men to tell them how navigate their career field.  The truth is, women need male mentors.

Actually, that statement might be more true than you think.  Women do need male mentors to help them climb the ladder.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do not advocate that men are better than women at climbing the ladder.  However, due to sexism of the earlier generations there are more men who have already climbed the career ladder.  If you want to climb the ladder yourself, you need someone to help pull you up.

Is a male mentor a good idea?

If you are able to find a female mentor, congratulations.  I think that’s a great idea as a female mentor may offer advice on how to drive your career path.  Be aware that it’s possible she is not in the best position to help you however.  While she might be able to give you advice, a female mentor is not in a place to truly advocate for you.  Also, some women still deal with the zero-sum idea when it comes to career advancement.  If one woman gets a promotion, another woman won’t.  Therefore it creates competition for the prized slot which is why women need male mentors even today.

My recommendation for women in STEM career fields is to find a male mentor.  A mentor is your greatest cheerleader.  He can also give you constructive criticism when he sees or hears you might have made a bad choice.  It takes two to tango, and he’s played this game already.  Learn from the mistakes as well as the successes of a mentor.

 Check out our article on “Are You Bossy?”

Utilize your mentor’s advice.

If you find a mentor you want to maximize the benefit.  You have to stay open to feedback and constructive criticism.  Remember that you want to draw out key insights from the leadership and experiences of your mentor.  Be mindful of his time.  Since you chose him as a mentor, he is a mover and shaker.  Meetings and tasks fill his calendar every day.  He is graciously taking time out of his day for you, so be appreciative by limiting the items you bring to discuss with him.  Have a list of no more than five main items you want his opinion on, and save other questions for the next session.

Of course, my goal is to promote women in STEM careers.  Remember to help the next generation.  The young female scientist or engineer in your company can probably use a little support from you.  Pay it forward and reap the rewards!  Hopefully in a few years I can recommend you find another female mentor for you because enough of us have climbed the ladder to where we can make an impact.