March 8th is recognized as International Women’s Day, a global holiday dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements in all parts of society, including social, economic, cultural, and political. Each year, the International Women’s Day organization launches a campaign centered on increasing gender equality for women in the workplace.
The 2020 campaign theme is An equal world is an enabled world. According to the organization, “Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions–all day, every day. We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations, and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender-equal world. Let's all be #EachforEqual.”
The Power of Mentorship
Xactly has continuously focused on diversity and inclusion programs, and in light of the 2020 #EachforEqual theme, we’ve chosen to focus this article on the importance of mentorship for women in the workplace. One of the best ways we can help increase gender equality is by helping those around us and sharing the wisdom we have garnered in our careers with those who are earlier on in theirs.
I’ve been working in marketing for about seven years now, which positions me to both actively seek out mentorship from more experienced men and women in my field, as well as work to advise those around me who have entered the workforce more recently. I know that I would not be where I am today without mentors like Mary Jo Rose, Xactly’s current VP of PR and Brand. She has given me advice and perspective that only someone with her level of experience could have. She’s pushed me to think about situations through a different lens, get out of my comfort zone, and speak my mind confidently.
Recently, I have been given opportunities to act as a mentor and help younger colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. It’s humbling and fulfilling to be able to share what I have learned. This informal mentoring has led to friends reaching out to me to have their resumes reviewed, do interview prep, and give insight into working at a pre- and post-IPO company.
As a result, I’ve helped friends get jobs in new fields and provided guidance for those who were unsure of their path. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this if I didn’t have it modeled for me by my own mentor. Every woman needs to act with her own individual ambition, but we can all take the steps to open doors for others when we have the power to do so.
Mentorship Advice From Female Executives
One of the things I love about working at Xactly is that the people work to support each other at every chance, and at every level. An open-door policy isn’t just lip-service but an integral part of what makes our culture what it is.
Our CFO Elizabeth Salomon said it well when she emphasized the importance of building business relationships with those who will help you do your job well, create a more fulfilling work experience, and advocate on your behalf.
She says, “You never know who will call you with an opportunity down the road. That’s what I’ve found in my career when I look back.” Ultimately, Salomon says young female professionals should not be afraid to take chances that you can learn from and use to broaden your skill set.
Lisa Welch, Xactly’s VP of Sales names the CEO of a local museum and nature center, as her mentor. The two women met while volunteering for an annual fund-raising event. She has become one of Welch’s best friends, and they often spend time discussing their professional experience. According to Welch, her mentor is a steady, thoughtful, discreet, wildly successful executive who has helped Welch in many ways including developing patience and thinking in a more strategic, long-term way.
In addition to seeking out a mentor, Welch also provides mentorship to women on her sales team. She’s been known to speak on the idea that we are all much stronger when we find our “squad” aka our female support system. Another woman’s success is all of our success.
When I spoke with Nancy White, VP, Customer Success she looked at the topic of mentorship from a different lens. She reflected back on a time when she could have used a mentor, and the situation might have turned out very differently. Throughout her career, White has had many interviews. But the inappropriate questions she was asked in her first interview out of college, (by the VP of HR no less!) still stand out to her.
One of the first questions her interviewer asked her was, “What can you offer our company besides coming in a pretty dress?” Despite the red-flag question, she accepted the position. This was during an economic downturn and jobs were hard to come by. The firm was not diverse and lacked any form of inclusion for women in the workplace.
At Nancy’s sixth month review, the only area of development suggested to her was to increase her typing skills. What stands out to White is that she could have had so much opportunity and impact at this company if she was mentored and approached differently. A Biotech firm thirty years ago was filled with areas of development in recruiting that she was not offered or aware of.
Unfortunately, there are still similar experiences happening to women in the workplace today. One of the reasons mentorship is so important is so that women and men who are further in their career can help advise, elevate, and protect those who are earlier in their journey. We can all do this together, and it’s important for women who are earlier in their careers to find someone they trust to provide advice and support.
Programs that Move the Needle
In addition to a culture that promotes mentorship across the board, our VP of HR Leanne Bernhardt has led the charge in maintaining organizational transparency with our employees by offering the following groups, programs, and policies that benefit women at Xactly:
- Access to executives: We have an open-door policy and scheduled face-to-face interactions with executives.
- Equal pay: Organizations should place a large focus on the company’s gender composition and the gender pay gap analysis.
- Women in STEM: Enterprises should encourage the growth of women in STEM and develop key strategies to support women in STEM, including the Sit With Me Campaign.
- Raise Awareness: Our annual “Women on the Rise” event was created to draw attention to ongoing gender pay inequity while also promoting the need for greater diversity across the technology industry. Invites to the event are extended through personal networks to give attendees the opportunity to acknowledge mentors and women that inspire them.
- Women’s Enablement: A strong Affinity group focused on women called EmpowHER.
- Clear Career Paths: Internal promotions and movement opportunities.
Recent research has shown that people with mentors obtain higher compensation, receive a greater number of promotions, feel more satisfied with their career, and are more likely to believe that they will advance in their roles. How has mentorship affected your career? Tweet @Xactly and hashtag #EachforEqual to let us know.
Read more about gender in the workplace in this “State of Gender Equality in Sales” guide.