The Midsters Podcast

21. Women Mentoring Women

October 05, 2022 Tish, Ellen and Felicia Season 1 Episode 21
The Midsters Podcast
21. Women Mentoring Women
Show Notes Transcript

This week Tish and Ellen talk about the importance of women in midlife being mentors for the next generation of women. They believe that taking an active role to bridge the gap for women in the workplace and mentoring is one of the top strategies to help close the gender gap.  Tish and Ellen have been mentoring women for years across companies and roles - and they share their top 5 characteristics of a good mentor. 

This week's obsessions:
Tish's obsession: White Cropped Zip Fleece Hoodie - 100% cotton
Ellen's obsession: Bob's Red Mill oatmeal.


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Tish Woods:

Welcome back to the Midsters Podcast. I am Tish here with my co host, Ellen, and this week's episode, we want to talk about the importance of Midster Women becoming mentors for the next generation of women. We believe that we need to take an active role to bridge that gap for women in the workplace. I believe mentoring is one of the top strategies to help close this gender gap. And I want to pose a question for women to ask themselves in our careers, are we still dealing with a glass ceiling? Or are we just on a broken ladder all together? So per this study that was done by zip BA in 2021, it was saying that women held only 8.2% of leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies, that's only like 41 women. And of those, only two women were black women. So two of the biggest challenges that they kind of focused on as as difficulties were that women are still held to a higher standard to be considered as successful as their male counterpart. And then the other part was that there are still companies out there that aren't, quote unquote, ready to hire women for a top executive spot. And what I have found and I have seen during my many years, is women tend to be harder on other women in the workplace. And so I firmly believe that our way to kind of reverse this tide for women in the workplace has to do with starting with mentoring women mentoring other women.

Ellen Gustafson:

Tish, I mean, those stats that you just mentioned are insane. It's hard to believe that it's 2022. And they're, they're so low. But you know, I agree with you wholeheartedly on women, mentoring other women. And you guys know I'm in love with Wikipedia. So Wikipedia defines female mentorship is the mentoring of women by women to further their career, and develop their prospects and sometimes have female mentor can be a femtor. I've never heard that one before. But I thought it would throw that out too.

Tish Woods:

Yeah, Ellen. So here we are. Midsters are pretty much at the pinnacle of their careers. And I want us to challenge our listeners who are at those pinnacles of their career, or on the upswing of those to start reaching out to find other women to mentor, I had the privilege of working for the lash group, which is a large component of AmerisourceBergen. Now AmerisourceBergen is currently listed as number eight on the fortune 500. It was originally a company started by women and run mostly by women. It was such a unique company to work for, especially when it was under the leadership of Tracy Foster, one of the original creators of the company. And, you know, I just wanted to share how much mentoring changed my prospects and change what my you know, where I was able to go and how fast I was able to get there in my career. So I really want to share my own personal story of mentor of being mentored myself.

Ellen Gustafson:

I'm excited to dive deeper into this subject. But before we get there, before we talk about why mentorship is so important between women, you know, Fitz , ha Tish I we got to dive into our obsessions. What do you got for me this week?

Tish Woods:

Okay, so I I love dressing up, you know that like, I don't care how anyone else dresses I love like just dressing up. But then there's the other half of me that I like to be very sporty. And so when I'm sporty sometimes I feel kind of frumpy. So I really was seeking some type of sweatshirt. I know that sounds really silly, but some type of sweatshirt so I could still look a little stylish. And because I'm not that tall because I'm only 5" 5". You know when I wear sweatshirts They tend to be really long. And you know, I get into that where it's half of my outfit and they say, you know, you shouldn't dress 50/50, you have to dress 1/3 nd 2/3 thirds, to make your yourself look better. So I came across the most fantastic cropped sweatshirt jacket. Okay, so I went ahead and purchased it. I'm telling you, best $20 I've ever spent. It is so cute. It's shorter on my waist. So I look a little, you know, more put together. And I can actually feel okay about running errands and stuff in it. And it is so warm and soft. So that is my obsession as we're getting into these cool fall days.

Ellen Gustafson:

Well, I have exactly the opposite problem of you, because I'm 5' 11". And I'm long wasted. So when I get a crop thing, it's kind of right below my boobs a lot of times. But I am going to try this sweatshirt, because you have so highly recommended it to me. And I know you're probably wearing it to pickleball too, right?

Tish Woods:

I have been!

Ellen Gustafson:

Well, I will definitely we'll put a link to it in our show notes. But this week, my obsession is oatmeal. Specifically, Bob's Red Mill oatmeal. I don't know if you know that brand. I think it's from Oregon. But it's always all natural, and organic, and so on. But I love to start my day, especially as these days get cooler, with oatmeal. And what I love about it is you can make it so many ways. You can put almond butter or pumpkin butter, or you know, you can just go with blueberries or raspberries nuts, and I add a little bit of protein powder to it so that I get that extra kick of protein in the morning. So hats off to oatmeal, I'll put a link and you know what they sell Bob's Red Mill even at Costco so it's not some fancy brand that you know you have to go to a specialty store for?

Tish Woods:

Well, let me ask you, how do you make it? Do you? Do you have to cook it on the stove? Can you make it in your rice cooker? How do you prepare it?

Ellen Gustafson:

Well, a lot of times I'd like to just do the overnight oats you know when it's when it's hotter out, but I pop it in the microwave just for a minute. And I add a little chia seed, some almond milk, a little protein powder, and then either frozen blueberries, organic berries, and maybe a few you know nuts that I have lying around. So that or I love to put almond butter after I cook it is well it makes it just tastes great.

Tish Woods:

So, I went out apple picking and just picked up some pumpkin butter, which I never had before. And I'm thinking maybe I need to make some of this and I have a use for my pumpkin butter.

Ellen Gustafson:

Yes, we'd love to hear about it. So, you know report back in?

Tish Woods:

Well, Ellen, we have both spent many years working. And we've had our share of successes and challenges along the way. And, you know, when I look back at it, I've always, it's really kind of strikes me that women have been the ones who have helped me the most, or have hurt me the most in my career. And from those experiences, I think I learned what kind of manager I wanted to be. And I gotta tell you, for me, it was a bumpy road. You know, I and I challenge my listeners to really think about that, and make sure that it's our duty to once we figure it out to pay it forward. I wish I had had mentors so much earlier on in my life. I think those missteps those, you know, wrong selections, those may be being hyper aggressive in the workplace, maybe make those mistakes. So I want to challenge our listeners to really start thinking about who they can turn around and mentor. It's about time that women start helping women in the workplace. We are not the enemies of each other. We should not see it as our competition. It's our time to reach back and pull somebody else up.

Ellen Gustafson:

To shake up, 100% agree. And I know you and you and I have had so many conversations about the fact that many women regardless of their age, but especially younger women don't even realize that the Equal Rights Amendment era never passed. So it's really incumbent on women to help level the playing field for women, we already faced so many challenges toggling between family work career, right? We need to do whatever we can to help each other succeed. And that means not feeling threatened by each other, especially women coming up behind us, and really helping them succeed.

Tish Woods:

Yeah, I think the best way to show how important this is, is really to share my experience, because I had had such a phenomenal, I think, successful experience as being a mentee. Okay, so I had spent years and, you know, working and, and kind of floundering feel, you know, I switched my concentration of where my career was. And it wasn't until I got to AmerisourceBergen, who had this company culture of mentoring. So that's first time I'd really become aware of it. So I really wanted to share kind of what worked about it for me, and, you know, maybe start planting that seed with other people. And I just wanted to share, it wasn't until 2012. And I was 47 years old, when I had my first mentor. And it was the turning point for my career at that point.

Ellen Gustafson:

Wow. You know, it's funny, my story is very parallel to yours in a way Tish, I really drifted through the first half of my career, although I've been in marketing, technology, marketing, really, since my mid 20s. But I just took whatever opportunity came my way. And the first time I had, it wasn't a mentor, it was a champion, somebody that I worked with, who then went to other

Tish Woods:

Ellen, I need to stop you right there. I think we need to explain to our listeners, what is the difference between a mentor and a champion?

Ellen Gustafson:

Good point, Tish, you know, mentors are people that you talk to, to get advice to have strategy. And either a champion or a sponsor is somebody that really talks to other people about you, and promotes you within an organization or a community. So I think that's really important for women to know that there is a difference between them.

Tish Woods:

We need both, we need both, we need to go on I'm sorry to interrupt, you know, that point was really important. So you need mentors. Those are the ones that work with you. It's an internal process with us, right? And then there's champions, and they're the ones that go out and promote you and, and push you forward in a much more visible way.

Ellen Gustafson:

Right, exactly. So I had a champion, and he was somebody that I had worked with early in my career at Oracle. And he really brought me to several companies and talked to a lot of other people about me. And you know, after that, though, I did realize that I needed a mentor, but I was very late in my career, I was stalled at a director level, I had sought feedback from many different sources. But really, I got with this group of senior level women who were so powerful in helping me, they were so powerful in lifting me up and giving me confidence, and I learned a lot from them. And that is the group that helped me obtain my VP level job Finally, after 10 years of being stalled, so I wonder what could have happened if I had had this knowledge and opportunity when I was younger, just like you,

Tish Woods:

You know, I think I just want to kind of take a side note, I think you made a really critical point on the difference between getting a mentor and, and getting getting feedback from a mentor and getting feedback from your immediate bosses. Sometimes they're reluctant to give you the cold hard truth. But a mentor isn't your friend isn't your buddy doesn't have a usually a direct impact on your your day to day work. So they can be a little bit more honest with their feedback to you. They're kind of removed, you know, it's it's kind of like going to a therapist versus going to your best friends. Your best friends are still going to be tempered in their response. answer's no. And a counselor is going to be honest. So I'm going to say it's kind of like that. And I, and again, another reason a mentor is important. So when I got my first mentor, I actually went to somebody who was several levels ahead of me in the company. And she was far enough above me that she was able to give me better perspectives on everything, whether it's career path, people, teams, company, culture, all of it, she just had this bigger picture that where I was in my position I could not see yet. So I was at this crossroads of my career, I had two different avenues for advancement that I could go down. And they were very different. And when I met with her, she'd asked me a lot of questions what I liked what I excelled at just kind of getting to know me. And I'm telling her about these, you know, two different paths that I was considering. And she, it was funny, because she gave me opportunities to go and sit with people in those positions currently. Wow. And when I came back, I told her, Okay, this is this is the path that I picked. And I expected her to be like, Oh, okay, like surprise. And she was like, Yeah, I knew. I was like, What do you mean, you know, she goes, I needed for you to see that for yourself. So it was a powerful lesson to me that she wasn't there to tell me what to do. She was there to show me what to see.

Ellen Gustafson:

Hmm. I think that's really true Tish that mentors are there to help you with self discovery, right? They're not there to make decisions. They're really kind of your guide to understanding and knowing more.

Tish Woods:

And I challenge anyone who goes to mentor, somebody who's up and coming in their career, to pull the reins back on making those type of decisions for somebody. You show them the paths, and you let them pick their way. Okay, um, you don't want to be the decision maker. Because it's not your career. So yeah, so that was interesting. So, so she was able to do all kinds of things for me, she was able to introduce me to other managers at the company. She knew things about the people and the teams and the opportunities where she could see my skill set. With thrive. She understood the company culture and its implications in ways I could not. And she would make suggestions on things I should read things which would challenge me and advance me in my career.

Ellen Gustafson:

You know, it's true. I mean, a good mentor has to wear many hats. They play the part of, sometimes a teacher and advisor, an agent, a role model, a coach, and, and really a confidant. And your mentor, in that case, was able to give you a big picture view of your organization that you just, you couldn't see at that point of your career or where you sat in the company, right. So that type of relationship could save you years of struggling, just in the networking alone. But take us back, tell us how you got your first mentor Tish?

Tish Woods:

Well, the company had sent an email out about register to get a mentor. And I thought, okay, so I did. And I didn't hear anything back. Well, I had heard later that they had so many responses from that request, that there was no way to fill the demand. Right. And so I did what I think a lot of people do, and a lot of people did with me later was I asked my direct manager to be my mentor. And she so wisely told me no, right. And at first I was taken aback. And she said, she goes, You need somebody who is beyond my position, if you need somebody who's a couple levels up. And she also pointed out to me, you already have access to me. I realized later she was one of my champions, but she wasn't to be my mentor.

Ellen Gustafson:

Right, right, I mean, what a great suggestion by her for you to go out of your direct team, widen your contacts. And that's a great networking tip as well. You know, your, your direct managers, you want them to be more like your champions, just like you said, and your mentor helps you in in many different ways. I wanted to just bring up at my current company that we have things called coffee chats, and you can sign up to get matched with any number of people within the company. Any, and then you have a 30 minute chat over a cup of coffee most of the time over Zoom. But again, I think those programs can be overwhelmed with requests, and really taking it into your own hands is a good thing.

Tish Woods:

But I, you know, I like that because sometimes people who have a lot to offer are afraid to make a permanent commitment of time. And a mentor, you have to make a commitment of your time. Something like that, I almost look at it like speed dating, yes. Knowing going boom, you know, in eight minutes, you're gonna you know, but you know, so maybe you can't take on a mentor, like full on. But maybe you can reach out to somebody who's younger and say, Let's have coffee for 30 minutes, you know, and then give them the ins and outs. But so, my manager had made several suggestions of people who she thought would be good mentors for me. But she warned me, she said, and again, remember, I had a company that the culture was about mentoring. But she said that the really good mentors need to know that you're serious, they get inundated with request. She said, you're going to have to keep asking, they're not going to be like, oh, yeah, sure. She said, You need to show them that you're serious. So that's what I did. I said, Okay, let me let me start.

Ellen Gustafson:

So how long did it take? And how did you ask her to be your mentor?

Tish Woods:

Well, since I had never met her personally, I sent her an email telling her that I was looking for a mentor. I let her know who my current manager was that suggested that, you know, we might be a good fit. That way, if she wanted to call my manager and ask questions about me, she could. And two weeks went by and I didn't hear that. And I thought, okay, yeah, I said about the persistent thing. My manager told me, so I sent her another email. I told her a little bit before a little bit more about myself. And it was...crickets. So I waited a little bit like, there was another couple of weeks. And I sent her a third email. And I outlined some of my goals at the company. I mentioned some of the positions that I had applied for, and hadn't even gotten interviews for, you know, so I was showing her a little bit about more about myself, and also what I was trying, you know, what positions I was trying to go for, and the roadblocks I was, you know, running into.

Ellen Gustafson:

Okay, so at that point, you're three emails, and you keep telling her more about yourself was the third time the charm?

Tish Woods:

Well, no. So so now I'm about two and a half months into this process. I've sent a fourth email, I still don't hear anything. But I do see that she's going to be at this company event. She's going to be one of the speakers. And so I attended. And afterwards, I went up to her a introduce myself. I didn't say anything about like, I'm the one that's like pestering you by email. I just introduced myself and who I was in what team I was on. And I think I mentioned something real quick about the presentation, something that she had mentioned in the presentation, and I just went on my way.

Ellen Gustafson:

And do you think it dawned on her who you were at that point?

Tish Woods:

You know, she didn't let on at that time that she at all recognized who I was or didn't say anything? I found out later that yes, she said she knew exactly who I was when I came up. So I went back to my manager, and I said, Look, I have sent four emails, I have stopped her at this thing. I think I said, I think I'm just being a pest. I don't think this is working. And she encouraged me Be persistent. So I sent lucky number email five, and I finally got a meeting planner. So she said she didn't even respond to the email. She just sent up a 30 minute meeting. And I jumped right on it and said, yes.

Ellen Gustafson:

Oh, man, what a story you must have been excited and nervous. You know, I think if I were going to take time out of my busy schedule to mentor someone, I agree, I'd really need to know if they were taking it seriously. You know, because you're, you're putting so much time into it as a mentor.

Tish Woods:

Absolutely. And, you know, I still didn't know exactly sure what this relationship was going to do, what I was what I what were my responsibilities of the mentee, what could I expect from her and, again, I went back to my manager and I said, How do I prepare for this meeting? You know, I want to make the most of These 30 minutes, you know, took me forever to get this. And she said, you know, going prepared, that was really her only advice going prepared. So I had a list of the jobs I had applied for and never got interviews, I had a list of the jobs that I was still wanting to apply to, and that I would talk to her about. And it was so funny, because as we talked about this, she said, you're all over the place. Oh, she goes, Do you even know what you want? And it and it surprised me because I had gotten advice from someone else that said, apply for everything. And, but she was telling me something about my company culture, and I listened. And I never knew this. She said, you don't want to get labeled as being unfocused and not serious. And you don't want to be labeled as Oh, yeah, that's the girl that applies for everything. And what was funny was years later, when I was in the position to be on a hiring panel, don't I hear those exact words out of somebody I was working with that said, when they saw somebody's name, come up for an interview, they said, she applies for everything. And they totally discounted, what she was what she was trying to do. And I went, Oh, I remember those words. I remember saying those words about me. To me.

Ellen Gustafson:

That's a great story. And I mean, it just really shows that mentors can be instrumental in helping you or us or, you know, just see that broader perspective and teach us aspects of company culture, that we may not have figured out yet, or might, you know, take you five years to understand so they can really give you an insider's look at what would other otherwise take those years and really help you cut that time down?

Tish Woods:

Yeah, so kind of the next step. For me, it was my mentor, like I had said, had scheduled for me to meet with two people that were doing jobs that I was considering. And this really helped me to be able to figure out what path was, you know, the best one for me, she encouraged me to take additional steps in my process, to go and visit the people on those teams, so I could really get to know them. And they could get to know me, you know, was the team dynamic one I wanted to be involved in. And once they knew me, they they could go and champion me to the manager. Yeah, yeah, hire her hire her. It also really showed that I was that much more serious that I would take the time to go and meet people in the team asked to do a sit in to, you know, to see kind of what they do. So that was, again, that was another invaluable piece that I didn't know was a common practice that my company.

Ellen Gustafson:

It's like your mentor was opening doors for you at every turn. And isn't that what the relationship is all about? You know, they're teaching, they're opening doors, they're coaching. They're even acting as your agent.

Tish Woods:

Yeah, yeah. So once I landed this job, it was really interesting, because my mentor, she was moving into a very different aspect of the company, right? And she basically said, That's it, we're done. Go find yourself another mentor.

Ellen Gustafson:

Like you're breaking, we're breaking up!

Tish Woods:

Breaking up, right. But it but it was really again, another valuable lesson to me is, once you get from your mentor, everything that they can give you, it's okay to move on. It's not cheating. It's not this isn't a mentor is not a lifelong relationship. It should get you to a different point. And later, I had a mentor who was a vice president, at my company, she's at the top, besides, you know, the CEO, she was at the top. And she was very young. And she said, I've run out of mentors at my company, because I'm at the top of the pyramid now. And she was looking outside the company for a mentor. And it really spoke volumes to me of that relationship should never end. keep finding somebody else who can push you and, and give you different perspective and stuff like that. So it's not a one and done experience. So when I saw this woman who was listed as the top 30 in Charlotte under 30, her name was Honora. Gabrielle, I was like, wow, that spoke a lot that she's still even at the top of her career. So Young, was still seeking mentorship. So Yeah, that's spoke a lot.

Ellen Gustafson:

Yeah, yeah. And it really speaks to me about why we Midsters need to mentor younger women, too. So did you go from being a mentee to a mentor? And can you tell us about it? Tish?

Tish Woods:

Yeah, I actually did. I've mentored quite a few people. While I was at America, I was very open to it, because it had opened so many doors for me, I'm a pay it forward kind of girl all day long. And so I really felt this deep desire to pay it back and mentor I've mentored both men and women. But mentoring women just has this deeper meaning for me, because I feel we are held to such a higher standard in the workplace. Men can make mistakes that they can quickly overcome in their careers. And women can make the same exact mistake, and it is like an anchor around their neck. They they can't get from under. So I think for women, it's so important to have really good mentors along the way.

Ellen Gustafson:

Yeah, I completely agree. And right now, I am mentoring three women, and they are all younger than me. One is even in her early 20s. So I cannot stress the importance enough. But it's clear what a mentee gets out of the relationship. But tell me a little bit what you got out of mentoring.

Tish Woods:

You know, I know it's gonna sound super, super corny. But there is just something about having so much getting so much more out of giving and receiving. But it was interesting. I was in this leadership training program at the at the same company. And this one girl had reached out to me, and she always did when she was looking to pose for a new position trying to get a promotion. That's when I would hear from her. And I was discussing that with my other people who I was in this program with. And the one guy in the program said, Oh, why do you even bother? They're just using you. And I thought it was it was shocking to his reaction to me. And I said, we're not buddies, like, we're friendly. But this isn't somebody I'm going to call and go have dinner with on the weekends. This is somebody who respects where I've gotten to in the company, she knows that she can come to me, and it's confidential. And I can give her not that she has to follow what I'm doing. But that this, this is the time that she comes to me, she comes from me for a very specific mentor responsibility. And that's what it is, it's the giving back without expecting anything in return. It's the giving back, it's the building up, have another woman to be successful in the company, that I know that she's going to turn around and do that for other women too.

Ellen Gustafson:

Yeah. And it can be where.... what I was going to say, it could be where and when she needs it, right? It's not about you.

Tish Woods:

Nope, and that's what you have to have that separation of, you know, understanding No, that you're getting something out of the relationship. But it's more about a feel good kind of thing, more of a pay, you know, pay it forward. But what that mentor does for a mentee is is just phenomenal. It is absolutely phenomenal. And I think more women need to participate in this with other women. We have to level this playing field out there for other women, we have to, you know, that statistic that we started with, you know, 41 out of 500, fortune 500. Companies, the I mean, come on, we are half of the workforce, we need to not stop until we're half we're 250.

Ellen Gustafson:

Agreed, agreed. Okay, so there are so many characteristics that make a good mentor. We've kind of talked about touched on a few of them. But I think what we want to do is you and I picked our combined top five. So these are things that we believe a female mentor should strive for. Why don't you go first?

Tish Woods:

Yes. So these are the things that you should be you should strive toward to be as a mentor yourself. Or if you're looking if you're a mentee looking for somebody, these are the things you should look for, or tell your daughters to look for, you know, so you want somebody who's knowledgeable in and has an enthusiasm about sharing their expertise. They have to want to impart their knowledge and their already successful in their own careers. That to me is top.

Ellen Gustafson:

For me, I really feel like, you know, they need to be able to give constructive feedback, to be honest and candid. And, you know, allow your your mentee tip perhaps fail at times to kind of, you know, understand how things are. I think that's really important that they don't need to sugarcoat things... got to be direct.

Tish Woods:

Like, like you were saying you would ask for feedback so many times. And I think people held back on you because they continue to have to work with you.

Ellen Gustafson:

That's right. And I just want to share one piece of feedback that I got one time, which was that I was too nice. The perception was that I was too nice. And I think women hear this all the time. And it really made me mad. But I had to dig deep and think about can I be nice and successful? What is my perception out there? It was very direct feedback.

Tish Woods:

Do you ever think a guy ever heard that? How know someone is even thinking those terms, but we have to let go of all that stuff and deal with what we have right now.

Ellen Gustafson:

Right? What's next? Tish?

Tish Woods:

So for me, it's about the ability to network. You want a mentor, or you want to be that mentor that knows your network that knows the resources that you can teach company culture? Mentors can show you shortcuts? And make introductions for you that could take years without their help?

Ellen Gustafson:

Mm hmm. Excellent. I mean, for me, the next one is that they really need to be able to assist with kind of what I would call the socio political navigation, or that company culture, really, to be able to inform of different, you know, different professional development opportunities, based on that knowledge.

Tish Woods:

Absolutely. Those company cultures are so subtle sometimes. Yep. And again, that can save you years at a company. And I'm gonna say the last one is making very clear defined roles and responsibilities to help establish short term and long long term goal goals. I can't even say, so you want somebody who can work with you? What are your short term goals? And let's, let's see what that's gonna look like, what are your long term goals? And let's see what that's gonna look like. And they can help to start prioritizing your career plan.

Ellen Gustafson:

Excellent. You know, women still face so many issues in the workplace. There's gender income, equal inequality, you know, we make about 20% less on the average than our male counterparts. This work life balance, especially as a Midsters. Or you may be taking care of elderly parents, you're a working mother. There's a gender bias and stereotype. There's advancement barriers, and there's harassment that could be a whole other show, right?

Tish Woods:

Absolutely. So kind of like to sum everything up as Midsters. i So heartedly believe that we have an obligation to mentor and support other women in the workplace, to aid in their personal development to build their confidence is up to guide them through the challenges so they can advance in their careers. I believe that mentoring is the top strategy to help close this gender gap in business in leadership.

Ellen Gustafson:

Excellent summation, Tish. All right Midsters. Till next time,

Tish Woods:

Till next time Midsters