A Question For Women About Finding A Mentor

Women-Mentors

Question… Why do women typically have a harder time finding a mentor than men do?

This past week I posted “Mentors” which you can read here. It’s about how important mentors have been in my life.

After reading through some of the comments I’d like to back up and say this about where I am in my life now. It took a long time for me to get where I am in my career and in the relationships I have with my most trusted friends. I’ve had several mentors over the years and have been in several small groups. This doesn’t mean they were all good. Some were… some weren’t and as you would imagine, the right fit whether in a small group or a one on one situation comes when you feel the most comfortable to really be who you are and open up.

But as I read through some of the comments on my post and talk about mentors in normal offline conversation, I’m particular intrigued by what woman typically say about mentors… they general say this…

“It’s hard for me to find another woman to mentor me or find a small group of women to connect with.”

So… for those of you who are seeking mentors and those who are mentors…

Why do women typically have a harder time finding a mentor than men do?

  • http://beautyinthestorm.blogspot.com Dionna

    I can only speak for myself personally. But I have a hard time finding a Godly Christian woman who I can click with. Someone who isn't "too busy" with her extended family or ministry things. Someone who is willing to invest into me. I have no family here where I live and honestly, it would be nice to have a fill-in Godly mother here.
    As for me mentoring others – I have an online womens ministry and have mentored and also have led Bible Study. I think a lot of women are too afraid to ask for a mentor. They don't want to open up and risk the possiblity of rejection based on what is going on or has gone on in their lives. That is what I've seen.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lindsey_Nobles Lindsey_Nobles

    Not sure.

    Maybe it is because we are so relational that we fill our time with friends, colleagues, etc. but feel uncomfortable defining the relationship?
    Maybe it is because we have been burned by other women?
    Maybe it is because we are naturally competitive?

    It's odd. This is something I would love but I don't know who "the right person" is to mentor me. Maybe I just need to get off my tush and ask someone?

  • http://flowerdust.net anne jackson

    honestly? jealousy and insecurity.

    • http://tiffanymalloy.blogspot.com tiffany

      ah, anne. you hit the head on the nail (especially if we take busyness out of the equation!)

    • Julie

      I agree. I think insecurity is the biggest factor.

    • Deana OHara

      Anne, you nailed it. I was going to write that too. I will add though that I've had female sponsors (i'm in a 12 step program) and that is almost like a mentor. Women today are almost too busy for intentional mentoring. I have a lot of seasonal or shadow mentors in my life. Women I learn from long distance, either speakers or writers. I think those are okay too.

  • Cyndi

    I don't have a problem with that, there are lots of women in my life I'd call my mentors and many that I talk with regularly when I need put back on the right path. Whether they be artists, other mothers, etc. I find it easy to connect with other women that are "like" me. Perhaps some women have trouble making those connections, finding that common ground.

  • http://unforcedrthymsofgrace.blogspot.com/ becky

    an unwillingness to ask

  • http://emilysutherland.wordpress.com/ Emily

    Great point! Mentorship, for women, is a huge unfilled void. I know of a whole group of women whom I know are LONGING for this kind of thing.

    Why isn't it happening? Women fill so many roles that it's really hard to pull away and nurture ourselves at the same time other women are able to pull away from their lives to the same. It's often a coordination nightmare. For some (okay, for me) there are seasons of life when it just seems too hard, maybe even too self-indulgent during certain season of life… even if I'm the mentor. But I miss it.

    I think if we took mentorship in bite-sized chunks of time if might seem less overwhelming… maybe four or six weeks at a time? Heck, maybe ONE meeting we set up just for honest conversation and interaction!

    Also – for some busy women, moms with young children, or people who travel extensively – perhaps "cyber-mentoring" would be an interesting concept – maybe via Skype. Probably after a few really good mentoring meetings/conversations, most women would feel motivated to make it a priority because of the value it adds to our lives. Many don't know what they're missing. But if we get into a situation where it's not clicking, a short-term commitment would decrease the stress of trying to keep it going indefinitely.

  • carol

    I think that women are less sure about what a "mentor" might be. I learned what mentoring really was at work when I found a fantastic (male) mentor. Maybe women mentors are different, I don't know. I've never had one. so unless you have actually seen one in action, it might be hard to find one, or to ask someone.
    I also think that we (women) tend to be horizontal with our relationships- we might think that mentors are vertical in nature. Someone wiser, smarter, etc. I can't say that my mentoring relationship was vertical, but I definitely had someone who knew things I readily admitted to not knowing. With women, we might not be willing to admit we don't know things. We might also be hesitant to be a mentor, as we don't want to think we know more than someone else.
    i read your post and thought deeply about whether or not I had a mentor. (spiritual) I've just found a Christian friend for the first time. Our small group is 2. I think expecting to find a mentor in the same year might be greedy.
    I'm keeping my eye open for a mentor, but frankly, I'm not sure I would know one if I saw her yet.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Cindy_Graves Cindy_Graves

    Well, I think maybe we are mentoring, we just call it by a different name. Doesn't nurturing come more naturally for women than for men? If we can't call mentoring a form of nurturing maybe that's the reason it's harder for us. Our plates are already so full of "taking care of the world" that we don't take time to focus on our own development.

    I smell a change in the air though. The winds are definitely shifting! Exciting things ahead…

  • http://tiffanymalloy.blogspot.com tiffany

    I don't think I've ever heard anyone say this. Maybe it's a geographical phenomena? Or maybe an age thing? When working on collegiate and young adult ministry, I find that the men have the hardest time finding mentors, whereas the women are meeting with one another all the time in intentional discipleship relationships.

    Maybe as we get older, the women get busier with kids and home things after work, and the men feel like they can meet early with other men or have more men in their lives because of a career outside the home (whereas some women don't because they are working in the home)?

  • http://jlgerhardt.tumblr.com Jennifer Gerhardt

    I think it's sometimes hard for us to find mentors because the qualities we're looking for aren't easy to see from the outside. I don't need a big-time leader or a great public speaker. I need a person with patience, a good mom, a woman who makes her husband better. Behind the scenes stuff. And so it's hard for me to identify those people.
    And then once I do identify them, they're often not very good at articulating what makes them good. We women seem less aware of the superstructure of our success. We don't pay as much attention to why things works as we do to making them work–and how we feel about the way they work.
    I'd also go with Anne. I've been too proud (or jealous or petty or whatever) in the past and it's kept me from healthy relationships. Which also relates to what Carol said–we don't often do vertical relationships.

  • http://carolinamama.net CarolinaMama

    Mentoring for me works! Because I ask! As a young girl and young mom, it was always a source of great confidence and encouragement to have an older, Christian woman be my mentor. I just spoke to my first mentor on the phone this week – all these 17 years later – we're in consistent contact!

    Focus makes a difference. Younger women tend to look laterally and try to keep up rather than looking up to women of faith they can emulate!

  • http://www.flipandpoint.blogspot.com AymieJoi

    For me, it's mostly fear – fear of rejection, fear of picking the wrong person, fear of it not being what I hope it will be.

    Also, I think this may be even harder for single women. Most established mentoring programs revolve around young wives and mothers teaming up with women who are now grandmothers (Apples of Gold, for example).

    I know it can be done though. The church my mother goes to started a mentoring program for the women and it's been very successful. It took a lot of prayer (to match up the correct people) and commitment, but most of the pairs are still together, even after the official program has ended (which was kind of the point).

  • http://bahava.wordpress.com Katy

    Good question! I too have had a hard time finding a mentor and am working on finding those whom I can mentor. I think that it definitely can be hard to find someone who has time and isn't too busy with kids, marriage, etc. I think it's important to be intentional about using whatever time you have to be transparent, honest and open. Right now, I'm looking forward to a new season in my life to open more doors to having a mentor and being a mentor now that I'm back in the States for a season.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/torybee torybee

    Since your prior post on mentoring, I've been in much thought and conversations with others. In fact, randomly (or not so random? Not sure) it was indirectly pointed out to me that the person I've been having lunch with once a week is a wonderful mentor and in the prayer by my pastor he brought out that perhaps others in our congregation would seek her out and she'd be discerning on who to spend her time with in this process.

    It hit me: She's my mentor! I complained I had none, that no one liked me, etc. and yet failed to see that perhaps this was quite intentional. Instead of making me instantly happy that YAY I have a mentor! I instead felt hurt that all I was to her was a project. There is a part of me that wants to be autonomous. On further reflection I realized that I'm quite happy to have her in my life, whether one calls it a mentor or a friend.

    I wonder if since I'm an introvert if a group of women wouldn't be conducive for mentoring for me? It seems to me that in the groups I've been into, even some that were supposed to be "care groups" or Bible studies, there's always one person (the same person) that has such GREAT needs and struggles and the group revolves around them. (and it's not me! My cares and struggles are generally quite common and mundane)

    I don't know. I loved hearing all the responses above and agree with the reasons why we have a harder time, especially in regards to fear, insecurity, risk, etc.

    I read a very interesting post (@lnobles) the other day that shook my world up a bit as I wondered if I'm just the type of person that no one sees value in investing their time in. That's not exactly truth because I've many friends but I do desire a deeper bond of friendship and often that is a bit revealing and scary. We're applauded for being authentic and 'real' and yet at the same time it seems to be why some turn away…. I don't want to be negative or depressing (yet obviously I'm not a very lighthearted person!) yet I want to be more than shallow and have others reciprocate that depth.

    Today I realized that one can be genuine and authentic and not draining, and often it has to do with so many factors and variables that it's hard to pinpoint in writing!

    I'm happy to say that I have a wonderful mentoring relationship that is in many ways reciprocal; we learn from each other. She indulges me in my strange questions and even my raw, written out loud, uncensored thoughts. (I don't swear, just sometimes don't sugarcoat things) She listens. I listen. I'm receptive to learning (sometimes) and she's gentle and goes at my pace and loves unconditionally.

    I thank your post (and my pastor's prayer) to help me realize what a treasure she is in my life. I'm still not sure about groups of women getting together under one mentor though! I'll have to experience it to believe it!

  • Naomi

    Women are raised to be independent, suspicious and private. I was mentored by a woman who called me long distance once a week. We read a book together and discussed the subject. In the beginning it was frightening to be transparent. In the end…………priceless.

    Most potential mentors dont ask, they wait for the initiation to come from the younger women. They(we) should not. Rather know that countless young women are craving mentorship.

  • http://www.vickeybanks.blogspot.com Vickey Banks

    Interesting, the comments you've received. While I agree with what they're saying about women – insecure, afraid of rejection, too busy trying to handle their own world, possible mentor candidates seem too busy, etc…I think there's a key factor that I didn't see raised. And, I do mean KEY:

    While many women desperately WANT mentors, VERY FEW consider themselves worthy to be one!

    While most women feel they're doing all they can handle, they also do what they do and think there is absolutely nothing special enough about it (or us) that's worth passing on. Talk to churches who've tried to implement mentoring programs for women and I expect you'll find 2 main problems: the one I've mentioned (1) many women who want a mentor; very few who feel qualified to be one, and (2) connecting – physically (as in trying to coordinate their schedules as time is a big factor – we give it to our family, friends, & jobs, almost always feeling we're shortchanging those we're already tied too) and emotionally (this would be far more important for women than for men as we are so dang relationship wired.

    This is what I've seen and I've led Bible studies since I was 19, discipled many girls & women over the years, travel and talk with lots of women as a speaker, and mentor several individually now. The only time I wasn't closely working with a woman was when I was up to my eyeballs traveling as a speaker, authoring books, & trying to care for my growing family at the same time. We are a complicated lot, us girls. We yearn for natural connection, but often stand in our own way.

    Thanks for trying to understand us :o)

    Because of Him,
    Vickey Banks
    http://www.vickeybanks.blogspot.com

  • http://www.twitter.com/LailaHajji Laila

    In my experience, I do not find it hard to find mentors. I have 5 solid women mentors in my life. All women who are at different stages in life and varrying careers. I am someone who looks for mentors. So for the women that say they do not have mentors, I have a question. Do you look for and seek out mentors? My guess is the women who say they do seek out mentors have mentors and vice versa.

    Also if you are looking for a mentor, pray for it. She will come. : )

  • Diana

    I agree with Cindy – I think we have Mentoring, but we call it a different name and I think most times we don't recognize what we have with our circle of Friends is mentoring. Unlike guys we don't (well I don't) seek out a mentor, but we do seek out friends to keep us in check. And with those friends we don't even have to see each other on a regular basis to keep each other in check.

    Think women also have different friends for different reasons/occasions. Currently I have a hard time finding women in the same "boat" as me. I am a married, working mom of two boys. We are the only family on our block where we both have professional jobs outside of the house. Plus, we are not from here and do not have the safety net of family to help out. Since being in Nashville I have connected with one other women in the same boat and she is the one I call when I am overwhelmed or just looking to gripe in general. We keep each other in check, reassure one another and can relate to one another to show we are not alone. But then I have great neighbors who are stay at home moms and they may be the ones I call for mom tips.

    For women we are raised/born to be independent and self-sufficient which makes it hard to ask for "help". We are also programmed to put families first and in my case work is next. So with that there is not much time to gather on a regular basis. But with our friends -in a group or individually – we get what we need to keep us grounded, motivated and reassured because the best friends are the ones you call after 6mos and it feels like yesterday.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SpenceSmith SpenceSmith

    here i am at the end of my day. I haven't been online to see all of these comments and all i can say is WOW! This is exactly the responses i was looking for. I think this is a great representation of just about every line of thinking when it comes to mentors for women. Thanks for all the insight and willingness to lay it out there in the most honest and real way.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/JeffHolton Jeffrey Holton

      I replying to you here because I don't think it's appropriate to reply to any of the other comments. I gotta tell you, I'm reading this whole transaction from the original post and on down the line with my jaw on the floor.

      I had no idea that men formed mentoring relationships easier than women! I sort of envied women for their ease at forming friendships and attachments, and thought that it was we men who were the ones who struggled.

      As I initially skimmed your post up there, I thought to myself, "Whatever. Where's he getting this from? Nobody's going to reply to this!" Boy did I peg that one wrong!

      I have a lot of sympathy for the women who've made these comments here. Ladies, I had no idea this was so hard for you. There's a void in here that I simply had no idea was there! I wish I could help do something about it, but direct intervention would, of course, be supremely inappropriate.

      On the flip side, I feel a SNL-style sketch coming on about Jesus, frustrated at trying to select 12 women to be his disciples, giving up and going to hang out with Andrew…

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lindsey_Nobles Lindsey_Nobles

        @Jeff I'd love to see that SML sketch.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/lorizimbardi lorizimbardi

    God has gifted me with the ability to mentor, my God core is a pearl polisher. Helping women to see who they are, how God had made them and to realize that under the lies, and insecurity and crap that they are a precious gem. Here is the problem. I'm scared to death to do what God has called me to. I want to run and hide and with every gal that I know God is drawing me to or bringing to me, I pray that it is a mistake or that they just pass me by without stopping. I tell myself (or satan tells me) I don't know God's word well enough, I have made so many mistakes why would anyone listen to me or want to share themselves with me, who do I think I am… the lies go on. I think jealousy and insecurity and petty issues do get in the way but I can honestly say fear is my biggest issue.

  • http://thechallenge2010.wordpress.com/ amyhamiter

    It made me sad to read the reply, "insecurity and jealousy." I've consciously surrounded myself with strong, secure, intelligent, witty, nurturing women who help each other all the time and truly want each other to succeed, and I guess I forgot there are others out there who aren't out for my best interests.
    I think for me it's been easier to find mentors because I'm so dang outgoing and vocal, and maybe I look like I need help? :) Seriously, I have a great group of older and wiser ladies that I consider mentors.

  • http://anam-cara.typepad.com shelia

    I agree with Anne that insecurity and jealousy are part of the problem. I also agree with Diane that many women are so so busy taking care of everyone else they do not take time to care for themselves. This is a tragic mistake.
    I am blessed to be involved in mentoring relationships in both directions. Having women in my life who are further along on the journey, as well as women who are young and audacious, bring perspective and challenge of two very different, but equally marvelous, sorts. In the best mentoring relationships, I believe we call out things in one another that we could never find alone. God always meant us to live in community. I am more myself when I am in communion with others. I am also a better wife, mother, and friend.
    To Lori, I would say, don't wait til you have it all together to mentor others. If you are open and vulnerable with the women God sends to you, they will learn as much from your mistakes as they do from your wisdom. How wonderful to give them the gift of learning from your mistakes so they don't necessarily have to make the same ones themselves. Such has been my experience.
    And to Jeffrey and to other kind men who covet this gift on behalf of women in their lives, I would say one of the best things you can do is create the space for them. Volunteer to keep the kids, or to bring home dinner. Let her know that you believe it is important for her to take care of herself.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/lorizimbardi lorizimbardi

      Thanks for the encouragement Shelia.

  • wonderfalls

    Didn't read through the other ladies comments above in depth just yet because it's Friday night and I'm pooped out. But for me, guess I'm so blessed that way. Coming out of a long-term career in the television industry where men outnumber women significantly, I made so many life-long friendships with women (and men) I bonded with above and below me on the totem pole. Ok, so not all were perfect – we had/have our relational ups and downs. But I keep in touch with each and every one…and everyday I typically quote or draw from my experience with the women in my life to get me through. Jealously and insecurity among females have never been a problem for me….although I've seen it happen in the movies. LOL! The closest I've come to a single-white-female was a woman I had the unfortunate circumstance of meeting last year still being new to TN. Came to find out after a couple of months that she sought me out for the wrong reasons, stalked me, essentially. She found me on Twitter because I had been communicating with a man she had been "supposedly" having an affair with. Thus, my locked Twitter account. Hee! Anyway….suffice to say, I felt badly for this woman…separated with 2 adorable children. I bought into her story before I realized I was being manipulated. At my age, to have that be my first taste of catty women jealously….well, I think I'm doing darn good! Sadly, this particular women went way beyond catty into the stratosphere of full-blown head case. Good times!

    So, I grew from that. But aside from that, at 43, I've worked with the best females in the television biz….and now I have peeps working under me, and I can only pray they feel that way about me one day. One day when I'm not so old gray. :)

  • shawn

    Jealousy, insecurity, private, prideful, like others to think we have it all together…insecurity,

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    Mentoring is such a formal word. When I was growing up in the '50's and '60's, my mom belonged to ladies' circles and women's Bible studies in our church. In today's terms, those groups were very much mentoring groups. As for myself, I have had "mentors" as I re-entered the field of education, but in my spiritual walk, I am pretty much a loner. Over the years, I have found a lot of cattiness and bickering whenever I have had relationships with other women. And you know what, I never found satisfying answers from people who could only see what I wanted them to see. I have found the greatest place of mentoring within my prayer closet. With God, I can be absolutely honest about how I feel (I have even yelled at Him at times) and throw myself upon His love, grace, and mercy. We all can put up facades with other people, but God sees us in our realities. How I praise Him for His absolute love because it is perfect, complete, and real!

  • http://thequirkyredhead.com redheadkate

    I spend so much of my time being the stable, reliable one that I have errected walls to enable me to "be strong" for everyone else. It gets awfully hard to remember how to let down my guard and be vulnerable, which is crucial for any type of mentoring relationship.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stephanieinlex stephanieinlex

    Ah, such a good, good discussion. Like many in this discussion, I haven't had trouble finding excellent women mentors along the way, from girls my own age to women twice my age, and other ages between. I think vulnerability, honesty, and putting yourself out there comes more easily to some women than others. It's, perhaps, rooted in our makeup, our personalities, our experiences (how hard it can be to trust and be authentic after having been burned), and a lot of it might have to do with the community where we are, how plugged in and comfortable we are in it, and our existing relationships and the time they take. For example, I'm a single girl in my early 30s with a busy career, heavy involvement in a ministry, and a pretty full social life; the only reason my "mentoring relationships" thrive is because I have a scheduled time each week to meet with a mentor-type friend, I do naturally wear my heart on my sleeve, and it doesn't take a lot of time for me to cut to the chase. But, if I had a husband and family, seriously, I have no idea how I would be able to maintain and make time for mentoring (I guess I will cross that bridge when I get there, Lord willing. I have so much respect for women who balance all of these things!).

    I think one thing we do all have in common is the tendency to compare ourselves to one another and to a societal standard and wonder–even if it's just an inkling now and then–if we are not enough/too much. In recent years I have surrounded myself with some women who are really anointed and willing to shepherd other women my age, and while I haven't labeled them "mentors," per se, I think it goes unsaid that the bouncing off of ideas that we have pretty regularly is a mentoring relationship. I have a weekly accountability time with one of my best friends here in town, and we've found that our seasons of true authentic sharing wax and wane with our comfort with ourselves and whatever we happen to be dealing with spiritually and just in life in general. Sometimes our sharing is light, other times there are deep revelations. I guess our key is not having expectations of mentoring outcomes and just spending time with one another as sisters in Christ, supporting one another.

  • http://elainaavalos.blogspot.com Elaina

    I was one who commented on your previous post that I have a hard time finding mentors. I have been thinking about this lately. I honestly believe that there are a variety of reasons and it may be different from person to person.

    I do think Anne has a really good point about jealousy and insecurity though. That has always been one of the things that's frustrated me most about my friendships with women. To those who haven't experienced that, I think that's awesome! But I'm not sure your experiences are the norm. But I also think there is something to that geography thing. Growing up in Southern California, my family and I went to HUGE churches. Big. And finding your niche in a "mega" church can sometimes be challenging. So I definitely think that contributed to me feeling disconnected or unsure of where to find those mentoring relationships.

    But I also know that when I did take a step and ask someone or was approached myself, it invariably ended up not working out. Mostly because of life circumstances of the person who was mentoring me (too busy with family obligations for instance). My closest friend is married with four kids. And while at various times we've attempted to be that for each other, I had to finally let go of my expectations that we have a more "formal" time to have a Bible study or whatever. Since I'm single, I feel like I have all the time in the world compared to the demands on her (and all my other married friend's time). Even though I had my job competing for attention, I still had way more "me" time than she did.

    This is one of my main prayers now. I'm moving back to NC in three weeks. And I'm really hoping to get settled in a church and hope to find this. At the very least, it's my prayer to find a small group that is real and truly seeking to be real with one another and grow in Him.

    • http://www.spencesmith.com Spence Smith

      Emily, your situation sounds like a common theme i hear. I hope you find that when you move!

  • Mary West

    I actually have an accountability partner. Im not sure if the two terms are connected or not. But I let her see what Im going through and she is able to objectively tell me where I stand and what I have to do. She gives sound advice and keeps me on track with the Lord and people. She is gifted that way and I trust her. The Holy Spirit helped me find her because I asked God for wisdom and He gave to me freely. He sent her to me.

  • http://www.6feetover.wordpress.com Melody

    This is a great topic and one I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It seems like all the women that I would love to have as a mentor are too busy…or at least in my eyes. I tend to discount myself by thinking, “they wouldn’t want to mentor me, they have way more important things to do.” (not that mentoring isn’t important, it just takes a distant 10th behind husband, kids, home, family, church, etc..)

    And I don’t mean ‘busy’ in a bad sense…women, in general, have so much on their plates so we understand how other women don’t need another thing added to the plethora of responsibilities. There’s good ‘busy’ and bad ‘busy’, but that’s another story.

    Again, wonderful topic…I’m going to tweet this.

    ~melody~

  • http://www.readygogetset.com Adelle

    I'm on the same page with everyone else …specifically for me, it's pride.

    Because I'm perfect. At least I think i'm supposed to be. My mother thought she was supposed to be perfect, too. And her mother, and her mother.

    To be mentored, I'd have to let someone else see my hurts and my flaws and that's terrifying.

    My most successful mentoring relationships (me being mentored) have been because an older, wiser woman pursued ME. Not because I swung open the door and said "Come on in!" Had they not continually pursued me, I never would have opened up. They met me where I was. It's something I've tried to keep in mind as I grow older and am now stepping forth as Mentor instead of Mentoree. Push aside the pride and peek under the curtain to the lonely, discouraged young woman underneath. Pursue her. She needs you!

    Thanks for tweeting Melody! I'm going to as well.

  • Scrappy

    It seems like women in general are more threatened by other women, where, in general, men have mastered the art of being friendly with other men while remaining competitive. Maybe that has something to do with it. I have found that when someone gets a promotion, many women act as if the promotion was “stolen” from them, that there is now one less position in the cosmos, instead of being genuinely happy for the other person, man or woman.