The problem with a lack of female mentors in business — and one inspiring way to fix it.
A brighter business future for the daughters of the world is in progress...
Starting a business requires more than just a will to succeed and a great idea.
It takes support, mentors, help, connections, more support, more mentors, more help, more connections, lots of money ... rinse, repeat.
Just like you wouldn't climb Mount Everest without a Sherpa and a backpack, you wouldn't climb the mountain of entrepreneurship without guides and investments.
Unfortunately, there's one other thing that seems to really help when seeking guides and starting a business: Being a dude.
For example, digital startups founded by men are 86% more likely to be funded by venture capitalists and 59% more likely to be funded by angel investors, compared with female-founded startups in the U.K.
The process of finding guides, making the relationships that pave the way for funding, success, and advice when you need it most is not really working the way it could for ladies.
According to a report by the Kauffman Foundation, of nearly 350 female CEOs, presidents, CTOs,and leading technologists of tech startups in the U.S., almost half reported that "a lack of available mentors or advisors" was one of the top challenges they faced with their ventures.
So, how do you set a goal to create mentors for women? And how do you achieve it?
Gina Romero, founder of The Athena Network Singapore, knows how.
It's all about knowing a few key people and then strategically bringing them together. In an email to Upworthy, Romero puts it frankly: "Athena gives our members access to the knowledge and skills that small businesses and startups often don’t have — and more importantly collaboration and support."
On top of that, Facebook allows women, particularly in remote areas, an opportunity to connect. As Romero mentioned when we spoke to her, "Facebook is one of the most powerful platforms for community building and, of course, connecting people. Especially when you want to reach people from all walks of life and in remote places. I’m in the Philippines right now, staying in a rural town where people still pump water and cook on wood fires — yet almost everyone is on Facebook. That’s pretty incredible."
With in-person mentorship plus Facebook, the benefits of explicitly forming female mentorship relationships just take off!
Organizations that are intentional about bringing people (and especially women) together create opportunities for training, development, media training, and so much more.
Listening to Elyse Anne, a personal finance consultant and one member of The Athena Network Singapore, describe its benefits, it's clear this stuff is important. "When I joined Athena my goal was to get more media coverage. ... I closed about $10k in sales in the first year thanks to media coverage. I was able to raise my profile and increase my rates to charge what I'm worth."
Organizations like The Athena Network are vital. They give female entrepreneurs the opportunity to create their own networks, share learnings, and “collaborate for mutual success.”
Romero's trying to change things in Asia, but the lack of mentors is international. Of 318 women from 19 countries and 30 businesses, a whopping 63% had never had a mentor, all the while 67% of that same group listed mentorship as one of their highest priorities.
Something's gotta give.
What's really worth noting is that 65% of women who have been mentored go on to become mentors themselves, according to a Catalyst survey.
Romero is 100% an example of that. As she told Upworthy, "My calling is to connect people. Connecting people in a meaningful way can be very powerful."
Being aware that this problem exists is the first step. Creating more opportunities for female entrepreneurs and more opportunities for mentorship is the next.