Opinion

The power of mentoring women to help break the bias

Whether intentional or not, bias makes it challenging for women to move ahead. Identifying that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field, writes Kath Blackham, founder and CEO of Versa.

Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. How often are you left thinking you are not good enough? Ashamed of your differences? Or unable to celebrate your successes because you cannot see them yourself? 

Whether intentional or not, bias makes it challenging for women to move ahead. Identifying that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field.

Mentorship is imperative in our industry to support the growth and success of women every day, and I have found the experience to be invaluable for mentees and mentors alike.

Mentoring can be helpful at any time in a woman’s career, but I am most passionate about helping women around the 28-35 year age bracket, who are looking at the next stage of their career – weighing up climbing the corporate ladder or having children, and wondering if they can have both.

As a mentor, I try to help women understand that there is no rush to get to the top (which is very subjective), and if you haven’t made it to the top by the time you are 30 that is perfectly fine and you are not a failure.

I’m 47, and have already had two incredible, yet very different careers – and I would say I have another one in me.

We need to put the playoff between having a career or having children by the wayside. It’s such a huge and personal decision. There may not ever be a ‘right’ time, but there is also no wrong time. I am on a personal mission to make sure that people know they have options, no journey looks the same.

My second passion point is imposter syndrome, one of the biggest blockers for women reaching their potential.

We’re often our worst enemies. There are so many women out there who are incredible, others around them are in awe, yet they struggle to see it and believe it themselves. Some of my proudest mentor moments have been working with women to understand their own value and to above all, believe in themselves.

Imposter syndrome often stems from bias, the fear of being judged, discriminated against, and women attributing themselves towards a stereotype that someone else has created for them. This year’s International Women’s Day is about #BreakTheBias, because, together we can forge women’s equality.

I believe that mentorship can be a key driver of action towards positive change, not only for women, and here’s why:

  • For women – To empower women to value and celebrate their differences, and to own their journey with confidence so they can thrive.
  • For men – To help them to better understand the bias that often exists so they can raise awareness around this issue and be a champion for change – celebrating and encouraging women’s achievements.

Being a mentor, and helping young women reach their full potential, the opportunity to be that person’s cheerleader and confidant is a real privilege. I am so grateful to be able to help young women through such pivotal moments in their lives and navigate through challenges that I have often also experienced. I understand, as a ‘working mum’ the guilt that is felt wishing you could be there for that sports day. For the ‘stay at home’ mum there is often guilt associated with not returning to work.

Through mentoring, and in general, it is my mission to empower women to realise their worth, be confident in their decisions, and know that there is no rule book! Mentoring absolutely has the power to break the bias.

Kath Blackham, founder and CEO Versa

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