Does She Need a Role Model, a Mentor, or a Sponsor?

It was about time to get the word ‘women’ into ‘mentor’. So, I did. Just launched my new company twomentor (t-women-tor), LLC to get the words ‘women’ and ‘men’ into STEM mentoring. It will take a unified approach. Today we celebrate twomentor’s one month anniversary with this blog and luckily not Pampers and Medella equipment at this stage of raising her.

So do girls and young women need a role model, a mentor or a sponsor? Likely all three along their professional paths.

If we want to recruit, develop, retain great girls & women in the STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) workforce we need to look at the whole pipeline and what women most need at different phases.

Reflecting back, I realize I needed three things personally and professionally:

1] A Role Model

2] A Mentor

3] A Sponsor

A role model was needed to show examples of great women: in science, in Senate, as leaders, board members, in tech, as business owners, and perhaps soon as President of the USA. The women in my family also served as key role models of women who found professional fulfillment, have families, and hung out with great loyalty with their girl friends (Mom and Ina just celebrated 55 years ‘together’ as BFFs). My father who came to America as a refugee from Hungary served also as a powerful example of resiliency and perseverance. He also taught me gratitude.

A mentor took on the role in a socratic way of helping me find answers within myself. In middle school a mentor (Karen C.) gave me an internship and taught me that I love small business. She let me work at her store for three years and helped me build some skills such as: inventory management, running the cash register, making marketing signs with Mr. Sketch pens, customer service and more. Mostly, she taught me to love work. I haven’t stopped working since, a dozen jobs and a few degrees later. A college mentor taught me how to get my work published and how to see others in their plights. A peer mentor got me into an interview for my first job at the company she worked at. Another mentor more recently taught me how to use a 3D printer. One of my mentors is a 72 year old dynamo and one is a 19 year old tech whiz.

Mentors came into my life as welcomed guides and were both male and female. One common ingredient was they all reflected that I had to have faith in myself, believing in me often before I believed in myself.

While a Mentor encourages one to climb the work ‘tree’ to new heights, a sponsor  takes on the role of going out on a limb for others. In other words, a mentor speaks to you and a sponsor speaks about you and advocates for you behind closed doors. Mike Caslin was such a sponsor in my life and I wrote about him HERE. Mike mentored me when I ran Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in a few markets and then he championed me to take his national VP job after serving the company 20 extraordinary years. Other people wanted the job and he was the one to say ‘Let’s choose Julie.’ At several conferences recently, women would approach me and ask how to get such a sponsor. From all these discussions & research, I am becoming more convinced that we lose professional women mid-career because they do not have a sponsor.

I reflect back and clearly understand I needed three things from girl to career woman: a Role Model (s), a Mentor (s), a Sponsor (s). I think my start-up needs all three, and gratefully, they are all swirling around twomentor, llc as key advisors.

But I need to acknowledge something else here.

I am also now needed more than ever to be a Role Model, a Mentor and/or a Sponsor and I suspect you are too. It’s time to start. Start simple (invite her/him for coffee chat). Start soon. Invest in her. Pay it forward.

Julie Kantor is a global speaker on women in STEM, President & CEO of Twomentor, LLC offering mentor training and strategy to America’s top corporations. She is also Senior Advisor to Million Women Mentors and STEMconnector. 

Why I Loved Yoga With Goats: And What I Learned About Us

As I got some of my best stretches in (ever) on the yoga mats, I watched the goat circus around me. Eating, headbutting, communicating, collaborating. My heart felt light, I took each new stretch in with joy and shared smiles with the people participating around me.

Why did Yoga with Goats make so much sense to me psychologically? A bucket list item, that was never on my list? Was it that I stretched better than I ever thought I could? That I felt more connected and plugged in with people I didn’t know very well? That I felt more refreshed and relaxed than I had been in weeks? That I (gulp) really enjoyed exercising? Or maybe it was something else.

But let me start at the base of the Santa Cruz mountains. As I started my drive up the winding hills the day before a speaking engagement at the San Jose Marriott, I marveled at the views and vistas. The winding road was idyllic and I pulled over to snap some pictures of the breathtaking ride.

Making a strong right then left in between these mini mountains, a bicyclist appeared in my sights and I slowed down. “This doesn’t seem safe,” I thought to myself and appreciated that there was no cell phone reception to distract drivers. There are a lot of blind spots and curves on this road. A mile later a few motorcycles passed me. “Share the Road,” said a big yellow sign and then another, and then another.

As I am in the mentoring space, I thought of leaders in their cars trying to get to from point B to point C and others joining the workplace on bikes and motorcycles. Five generations in the workforce. Who owns the road? How do we coexist on the journey in a really positive, safe way?

As I arrived at the base of the farm and home of Original Goat Yoga, I had a long walk alone up to the top. You see I arrived an hour early. Being a city dweller, I was a little glad I had mace in my purse in case there was an unexpected visit from a mountain lion. I joined 20 other people including my brother Andrew and sister- in- law Rachael who organized the event with gluten-free Cake Boss cupcakes and. pink grapefruit Polar Springs. They were celebrating her birthday and their 7th year wedding anniversary.

“I don’t see them as separate,” said the owner and yoga teacher Lucy when I asked her which was her favorite goat. “They are always together, like a single unit in my mind,” she shared.

Andrew and I sat next to each other on light blue and grass green yoga mats. I was in from Boca Raton, Florida and admiring him as a grown man, husband, and top executive at a very successful high-tech growth company that delivers eco-friendly products to your doorstep. Twelve goats roamed around us as we took on new yoga poses led by Lucy. They ate grass, looked at us with curiosity, occasionally used our mats to do their goatly-business, nibbled on our clothes, kissed us, and every once in a while a ruckus would break out with some healthy head-butting. Lucy, the owner, and her husband Roman were masterful at keeping everything flowing with fun, frolic, co-existence. They also shared with us their life ‘off the grid’ a few miles away from the heart of Silicon Valley.

I reflected on the isolation I am seeing in the workforce (and have written about extensively). America’s Loneliness epidemic, corporate burnout. People struggling with new leadership (and feeling valued), need for more transparency, living in silos, fear of change, growth in their companies, toxic cultures, not wanting to disturb each other. The goats represented to me COLLABORATION. We welcomed and even reveled in their disturbing ways. Clumbsy, charming, huggable, feedable, we were happy to be in their presence. They were present and we became more present to the immense benefits of yoga and their charming antics. Disclaimer: If you are a true Yogi, this might be sacrosanct. I hope that I have not offended in sharing my perspective of this experience.

They weren’t lonely and that made us more plugged into the world around us. More plugged into each other, and the fresh crisp air flowing with children’s laughter and glee. We felt a kinship with their community and became part of it for that 60–70 minutes.

I laid down on the mat for some final stretches and thought about signing up for yoga courses back home. My body felt great. Just then a two-inch hoof slammed down an inch under my right eye. It surprised me more than it hurt. I knew I would have to share a part of this story in my speech the next day, a story of connectedness, in part to explain the black-and-blue shiner on my face. We closed the day with a shared “NAAAAAAAmaste” and a bow to each other. The goat was being a goat being his/her authentic self, and a little makeup covered it all up just fine but the experiential imprint stays with me to ponder.

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Julie Kantor is CEO of Twomentor LLC. When not attending Yoga with Goats classes, she and her team help corporations, associations, and Universities build mentoring initiatives. She can be reached at julie@twomentor.com

#OriginalGoatYoga

Mentoring is the Down Payment on Our Future

“Service is the Rent We Pay for Living,” said our high school graduation speaker Marian Wright Edelman in 1987.

I agree. And reflecting add, Mentoring is the Down payment on our Future.

For the busy working woman, service & mentoring can be tough. We are increasing the hours at the office, online at home, squeezing in quality time for our kids, our partners, trying to be decent daughters and daughters in law. We have less time with our girlfriends which we know is a key linkage to our sanity. And its not just working mothers, fathers want more time with their kids too and millenials have worlds of interests outside of the office with a distinct entrepreneurial mindset to their careers.

… But they need us.

We are needed to be mentors and champion others. Especially as we grow in influence and have more sophisticated decision-making networks. A few words of wisdom, a listening ear, some concrete guidance, can make a world of difference to someone in job transition or trying to find their way post-college.

… And we need us.

As we start realizing that the workforce is not the diverse, merit based system we thought it was and that there are political nuances we need to understand. The stats are dismal when it comes to women on boards, in leadership roles, in STEM. We learn we need to lift each other up and consider applying a two-candle perspective (when a candle lights another candle, they can both light others and all shine equally bright. ) We need to not compete for single digit spots, but push to create and open up more seats at the table.

So I have an action item for us all (male and female). Bring on an intern this Summer. Run an ad at your local University, on Craigslist, get your HR office to help. Give her a project where she works with you on something big. Set goals. Invite her to meetings with you. Interview her on her aspirations. Have her meet with two other executives you admire. Have her represent you at an event or listen in to important calls. Teach her to use technology in a work setting, software, have her teach you (reverse mentoring). Be open about your successes and failures.

If you are looking for more diversity in your workplace, consider this part of an on-boarding strategy.

BTW – you can count your intern mentee as part of the Million Women Mentors as can your colleagues who do the same.

Light her candle, let in some additional light and life to your workplace … as she is a daughter, a sister, potentially a future mother, scientist, IT leader and she needs you to help her light up her path.