Five Challenges Women Face and How Mentoring Can Help

By Norah Breekveldt (WCLP’96)

Looking back on my career I found that life often gave me the same challenges over again, and when I realised I had something to learn from them I was able to move on.

Here are five such challenges.  They also come up regularly with women I have interviewed, coached or mentored. Perhaps you can relate to some of these too.

1. Be really good at what you do – across many disciplines. 

This is the starting point. You need to be great at what you do in order to be worthy of recognition. First, be an expert in your area of discipline, then if you want to move up to a senior decision-making role, move out of your comfort zone and obtain experience across key business functions. Your experience across these areas will help establish your credibility as someone who knows your organisation and understands the drivers of business success. The right mentor will open doors for you.

2. Be seen. 

Women who are well connected and who are on the radar of key decision-makers are more likely to be considered for that plum assignment, the next promotion or an interesting sideways move, than women who remain quiet achievers and hope their talents and track record will speak for themselves. Women sometimes need sponsors or advocates – mentors can be that advocate.Being seen is also about taking every opportunity to connect with people who may help you accelerate your career. Attend networking events whenever you can and you will meet the most amazing people with whom you can start a rewarding friendship or mentoring relationship.

3. Be heard. 

 You have performed well in a role and you are being noticed by key decision-makers. That’s great. You also need to actively participate whenever you are with a group of decision-makers. This means speaking up in meetings. Respect comes when one’s voice is heard. It’s your responsibility to raise your hand in meetings, share your voice and give your perspective. Lacking confidence? Your mentor can open up opportunities in meetings to have your say.

4. Be confident

Know that you’re good enough and deserve to be at the decision-making table. Your mentor can help you take control of any negative self-talk and thoughts by becoming consciously aware of them and encouraging you to replace them with more positive and encouraging self-talk. Forgive yourself for mistakes, too and move on.

5. Laugh often and laugh at yourself

One piece of advice I would give my younger self is not to take myself too seriously. A sense of humour at the appropriate time gives one perspective and develops leadership presence – people want to be led by someone who not only holds them accountable, but also makes the workplace enjoyable. Besides, it feels good when you can let go and laugh, particularly at yourself.

So give some of these strategies a try and see how your career will rise to a new level.


Norah Breevveldt (WCLP’96)

Norah Breekveldt is the Director of Breekthrough Strategies, a consulting and coaching firm, and author of three publications, Sideways To The Top: 10 Stories of Successful Women That Will Change Your Thinking About Careers Forever (2013), Career Interrupted: How 14 Successful Women Navigate Career Breaks (2015) and Me and My Mentor, How Mentoring Supercharged the Careers of 11 Extraordinary Women (2018).

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