BizWomen Mentoring Monday with the Boston Business Journal
Yesterday morning I had the honor of being a mentor at the Boston Business Journal’s inaugural BizWomen Mentoring Monday event. Nearly 300 women registered to “speed network” with 35 women mentors from across the business community in a tightly structured setting, kicked off by a video presentation by Lori Greiner from ABC’s “Shark Tank.” This event was held across the country in other American City Business Journal cities, convening women in several time zones.
This event left me with numerous inspiring takeaways, particularly given all of the recent attention to discourse sparked by books like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and President Obama’s focus on pay equity.
First, 300+ women showed up at 7:00 a.m. on a Monday morning—making this the first priority of their week, at a very early time of day. We all know how challenging it can be to hear that alarm go off at 5:00 a.m. on Monday (even if the song playing is “Happy” by Pharrell), but we came to share and hear from one another. Last week, BBJ publisher Chris McIntosh mentioned to me that the challenge to the success of this inaugural event might be getting so many women to show up so early on a Monday morning. No way! Not a problem at all. Never underestimate the power of women who will show up for each other.
Those of us who donated our time as mentors have many demands on our schedules. If we have kids, leaving the house for a 7:00 a.m. event might add another element of complexity. But we all eagerly agreed to sign up and share what we can, because it is that important to pay it forward. Senior leaders from Deloitte, Care.com, The Boston Harbor Association, Salem Five Bank, Randstad and many other for-profit and nonprofits put themselves out there to help women who are looking for advice or just want to develop their networks.
Following a videotaped interview with Lori Greiner, mentors led tables of mentees for spirited five-minute-long discussions, then the mentors moved to the next table, for a total of seven group conversations. If I had one regret about the format, it was that each speed mentoring session was so brief I didn’t have time to learn about the women around each of my tables, nor did they have time to learn about one another.
Luckily, the opportunity to engage in discourse about women’s advancement, equitable opportunities, work-life balance and career choice is all around us, every day. Recently, Hill Holliday CEO Karen Kaplan met with a small group of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s senior businesswomen, discussing the myths and realities of work-life balance, challenges women face on the career ladder and lessons learned. On Thursday, Deloitte is sponsoring the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Breakfast Event featuring Arianna Huffington. When I got into my car after this morning’s event, I heard Sallie Krawcheck being interviewed on public radio. The former CEO of Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney now leads 85 Broads, a networking organization committed to the economic empowerment of women globally. On April 26, the Center for Women and Enterprise is holding its annual gala to raise funds in support of women’s entrepreneurship and advancement. And on June 11, the Alliance for Business Leadership is convening a closed-door CEO session to discuss best practices that will advance women’s pay equity and women’s roles on public company boards.
And these are just a few of the opportunities in which I am personally familiar or involved. While I have heard some arguments that there are too many “women’s” events, I disagree. Based on the women—and men—that are showing up to participate in these discussions, this is fertile ground, people are hungry to share and learn from one another, and, despite all of the great strides women have made, there are still disparities in our working lives. Some of those disparities are worth celebrating…it’s a rhetorical question, but has there been any recent event at which 300+ men showed up to mentor one another (at 7:00 a.m. or otherwise)?