On Women, Mentors, And Flowers

Even in this century, it’s tough to be a working woman, but not as tough as it was, a new LinkedIn survey seems to imply.

Fewer than a third of women between the ages of 45 and 66 say they’ve ever had a mentor, while more than half of Gen Y women have had or currently have a mentor.

The women who haven’t been mentored said they “never encountered anyone appropriate.” Wow.

We’re coming to this research from Forbes contributor Kerry Hannon, who wrote that it makes sense that fewer older women had mentors: when they were younger in the workforce (and perhaps more in need of mentoring), there were even fewer women in senior positions to look up to.

And those that had gained some seniority had had to claw their way there and were unlikely to “pay it forward.”

Hannon says that when she was a reporter at Forbes in the 1980s, she was assigned to do the reporting for a female columnist’s column.

One day, she had a cover story for the magazine, or I should say, we did. I reported a huge chunk of it, flying around the country to interview top academics in California and so forth. It was heady stuff.

When the day came for it to go to press, the copy desk editor, showed me the advance pages and wow, the columnist had given me a co-byline on the story. I was walking on air–my name on a cover story for Forbes.

I raced out to buy flowers for her and took them to her office to say thanks. She snapped” “What are these for?” When I told her, she said, “You are not getting a byline. It’s my cover.”

If you want a mentoring relationship healthier than this one, Hannon offers a few tips: start by just asking (most people are happy to help), pay it forward, and skip the flowers.

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