When we ask women who have an interest in being mentors, why they haven’t put themselves forward, one of the most common responses we hear is that they don’t think they have enough experience to share.
You wouldn’t believe the credentials and experience of the women who are saying this. We are blown away by their stories and what they have accomplished, but still don’t feel like they have enough value to share with a mentee.
It is a clear example of imposter syndrome: a person with the required experience, doubting their abilities, and not feeling good enough to fill the position. Imposter syndrome is something many people experience, and data suggests that it impacts women more than men.
“Imposters syndrome” is well recognized and was popularized as “the confidence gap” by journalists Claire Shipman and Katty Kay. Their work highlights how women underestimate their abilities, predict they will underperform, and view themselves less deserving of advancement even when research shows that they perform at the same level as male counterparts.” – Melissa J. Armstrong, MD, MSc, and Lisa M. Shulman, MD, Tackling the imposter phenomenon to advance women in the neurology research paper.
It’s one of the reasons why a woman may be less likely to put themselves forward for job opportunities, compared to a man with similar experience, and why there are fewer women who put themselves forward as mentors.
At OneUpOneDown, we see this blocker regularly in our conversations with potential mentors. We also see how the experience of being a mentor helps to overcome imposter syndrome.
Being a mentor is a way for women to recognize their wisdom and experience.
“People learn the most when teaching others” – Peter F. Drucker
Teaching, sharing, or reflecting on experiences with others is a great way to learn ourselves and to learn about ourselves. In the case of mentors, the process of solving problems and helping a mentee overcome obstacles that they themselves have experienced proves to be a powerful learning and self-reflection opportunity. We have received feedback from new mentors that the experience helped them to realize how much they know and how far they come when they themselves see how much of an impact their own experiences and learnings can have on a mentee. It acts to overcome imposter syndrome.
This validating experience can then flow into other areas of their life, helping to improve their confidence and sense of self-worth.
What our mentors say about their experience with One Up One Down:
“One Up One Down is an ideal solution for making mentoring more accessible, and offering mutually beneficial mentoring relationships.” – Sophie Craig
“I absolutely love mentoring and offering my experience, time, and energy to help someone else grow and develop. The mentees I’ve been matched with have been incredible humans open to learning, growing, and taking responsibility for their careers and life. It’s a privilege to hold space and guide others as they take charge. I love doing this through One Up One Down as well, it’s such a great organization helping women empower women.” – Tash Pieterse
“Being a mentor was incredibly rewarding and enlightening. I was able to see my mentee grow both personally and professionally, and was delighted to be the driving force of that growth.” – Emma Kay
When we fear not being good enough for something, the best action is to do the thing and experience it. Then we know for sure whether we are fit for the position or not, rather than making decisions clouded by self-judgement and doubt. In most cases, the women who have stepped up to become mentors have been great in the role because they have experiences that they can draw from, and this is enough. Mentors are not expected to have all the answers for their mentees, just as when you take on a new role at work or in your personal life you’re not expected to know exactly how to fulfil the position. It is also an ongoing learning process, and with each match, mentors learn something new and become better in the role.
At OneUpOneDown, we make sure we match mentees with mentors who have the relevant experience and are a couple of steps ahead in the process. With this process and the right mindset, anyone can become a mentor and experience the benefits. What’s important is that the match is right and mentors and mentees have access to the tools and resources that help them to develop the practice of mentorship so they feel competent in the role.
To learn more about OneUpOneDown’s mentorship platform – head to https://oneuponedown.org/how-it-works/