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Research has long shown that women, particularly women of color, are less likely to have mentors—people who offer career guidance—or sponsors—those with influence who advocate for others—and therefore are less likely to receive a key assignment, promotion, or other opportunity. 

At a time when women are facing serious setbacks in the workplace as a result of Covid-19, mentorship and sponsorship are more critical than ever before. How do you give or receive mentorship during these virtual and disruptive times?

During National Mentoring Month, we asked Michele Scola Foote, senior consultant for gender development at Dell, and Asha George, Dell Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, to share their own mentorship experiences. (They are speakers at Catalyst's webinar, The Balance of Sponsorship, tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. EST.)
Q: How have your mentoring experiences changed during the pandemic?

Scola Foote: In the virtual world, mentoring allows me to keep relationships alive that probably would have faded because of geographic challenges. Additionally, there is another layer of intimacy that occurs because we are connecting from our personal spaces. We are sharing our homes, pets, children, and relating to each other on so many more levels than we would have in a face-face in the cafeteria or office. That tends to deepen our rapport.

Q: What about Zoom fatigue?

Scola Foote: Zoom fatigue is real. The most successful virtual mentoring sessions occur when the mentee comes fully prepared to make the most of our time together. Help me help youit will be a win-win for both of us!

Q: What is a really memorable mentorship experience you've had?

George: Very early in my career, I took a role that didn’t play to my strengths. Despite my reservations, I trusted the advice and counsel of people around me. I struggled in the first few months, but I learned so much about myself through the discomfort. Reflecting back, my capabilities and career grew exponentially and I am incredibly proud of the enduring friendships that still stand 20 years later.

Q: What do you enjoy most about mentoring?

Scola Foote: Mentoring the next generation of leaders keeps me optimistic and feeling positive.

Q: Do you have any reading recommendations for aspiring mentors or mentees?

George: Some books that have inspired me over my career are:

  • The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table, by Minda Harts.

  • WOLFPACK: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game, by Abby Wambach.

  • The Juggling Act: Bringing Balance to Your Faith, Family, and Work, by Patrick Gelsinger.

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah. 
Asha George, VP of Diversity & Inclusion, Dell
Michele Scola Foote, Senior Consultant for Gender Development, Dell
Additional Resources

Whether you’re a senior leader in your organization with the influence to open doors for others, or a high-potential employee looking to secure a sponsor, this collection of Catalyst resources can help you understand the key elements of successful mentor and sponsor relationships.

Catalyst Sponsorship Guide (Supporter Exclusive)

Learn the basics of effective sponsorship programs and read lessons from other companies. 

Sponsorship is one critical way for women to reach top positions in the C-Suite and on boards of directors. Learn how sponsorship, and other key strategies, increase the representation of women of color on boards.  

With guidance and training, Catalyst can help you create a robust program that will elevate your talent management and pipeline to cultivate future leaders. Contact Consulting Services to learn more. 
It’s not only what you know but who you know (and who knows you). A powerful way to achieve this exposure is through networks. Expand your network and help others do so as well by inviting them to the 2021 Catalyst Awards Program and Celebration. Throughout the month of March, more than 5,000 executives, senior leaders, managers, and high-potential employees will gather for a series of engagements dedicated to advancing women, particularly women of color, in the workplace. Gain inspiration from the 2021 Catalyst Award-winning initiatives (announced on January 26) and connect with others through coordinated networking sessions.

Mark your calendar and share with people you know, because together we will ensure that progress won’t pause, for equity can’t wait
Get practical examples from diversity and inclusion experts—including Catalyst’s Rikia Birindelli-Fayne, Director of Corporate Engagement in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa—on how to implement psychological safety in your workplace, whether you work on site or remotely. 
January 27
Learn how to expand your influential connections internally and externally to provide support to your own and your employees’ career development. 
During Black History Month, hear from leaders at Catalyst Supporter companies as they discuss roadblocks, successes, and more in their efforts to advance racial equity in the workplace. 
In Our Own Words
As the director of the Catalyst Women on Board™ program—which has paired women board candidates with CEOs and board chairs, who act as mentor-sponsors—I know how mentorship relationships can be beneficial both to mentors and mentees.

Three things that were shared with me as a mentee, and that I share as a mentor, are: 1) Always ask for and communicate what you will need to fulfill a role; 2) Ask questions if you are not clear about next steps; and 3) Don't be humble; self-promotion is your personal advertisement.
Meesha Rosa
Senior Director, Corporate Board Services
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