Tips for female MBA graduates seeking mentors – Maura Herson

Maura Herson, Assistant Dean of the MBA Program at MIT Sloan

From Financial Times

The benefits of providing women with mentors are clear. A 2016 study by Frank Dobbin of Harvard University and Alexandra Kalev of Tel Aviv University found that when employers introduced such programmes, “managerial echelons [were] significantly more diverse”. And companies with diverse perspectives on their leadership teams have better results.

According to Iris Bohnet in her 2016 book What Works: Gender Equality by Design, mentorship for women leads to increases in salaries as well as promotions and higher career satisfaction. She also notes that such programmes are associated with an increase in diversity in management.

Through its clubs, its leadership centre and its alumni, MIT’s Sloan School of Management offers its female MBA students many opportunities to both have and be mentors. After graduation, they can use these relationships as models to seek out and structure additional mentor/mentee relationships.

What should women who are finishing MBAs and preparing to start work consider when seeking a mentor?

My advice is to cultivate three types of mentors:

  1. Coaches to help develop skills and capabilities, and prepare you for advancement by providing constructive feedback
  2. Sounding boards to provide guidance on important choices about your career, graduate school and work-life balance
  3. Champions are perhaps the most important for career trajectory. These are people who will advocate for you for high-profile assignments, promotions or board positions

One person does not need to be all three, and mentors will probably change throughout your career. In the beginning, you may need someone to help you navigate the organisation. As you advance, you may need to cultivate relationships with people in different parts of the organisation and find mentors to champion your projects. And throughout, you will need a sounding board to help sort out career and life decisions.

Many mentoring relationships are informal. One accomplished senior finance executive told me that her first boss’s mentorship helped accelerate her success at an investment bank. She purposely sought his counsel on best practices to focus her efforts.

Read the full post at Financial Times.

Maura Herson is the Assistant Dean of the MBA Program.

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