During The Great Breakup, Women Must Mentor Women In The Workplace
By MeiMei Fox
According to LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co’s 2022 Women in the Workplace report, there is still a major gender gap in corporate leadership positions. Only one in four people in C-suite positions are female. To make matters worse, women leaders are leaving their positions in increasing numbers, citing overwork, under-appreciation and workplace micro-aggressions – a phenomenon called “The Great Breakup.”
Given this somber news, it is more critical than ever that women step up as mentors in the workplace and support one another. Mentors can:
- Support other women in developing their leadership skills by offering advice on how to communicate effectively, build relationships, and manage conflict.
- Help other women build their networks, introducing mentees to new people and opportunities.
- Aid other women in advancing their careers by offering insights into workplace problems and identifying opportunities for promotion.
- Provide other women with encouragement and support as they work towards their goals.
Larraine Segil is the founder, chair and CEO of The Exceptional Women Alliance Foundation, a nonprofit organization that champions peer-to-peer mentoring. “We enable high-level women to reach their dreams with a proprietary, metrics-driven, lifelong, codified mentoring system, changing lives one woman at a time,” she said in an exclusive interview with me.
Throughout much of her powerful career as a lawyer, entrepreneur and educator, Segil herself received exactly the opposite of mentoring. “So many people told me, ‘You can’t do that’ or ‘you will never succeed at this.’ I learned to ignore them and to focus on what I thought the best way was to achieve goals.” Later in life, when she had achieved more than she could have even imagined, she decided to make mentoring women her mission.
Later, Segil started law school. When the dean told her she was foolish to be pursuing a JD, she persisted. She, her husband and baby son then moved to America, where she obtained her JD, passed the California Bar, worked for a judge, then joined a large law firm in litigation – and realized that she hated it. So, she left law and became an entrepreneur.
“That is when the fun began!” Segil says. She built businesses in health care and the distribution of advanced materials, then began teaching executive education in strategic alliances at Caltech. Her business books were published (and so was her novel), she started what became a leading strategic alliance consulting company, and traveled the world consulting and giving speeches. When she sold her consulting firm and joined a Fortune 200 board, she thought she would be happy. She was miserable.
“I had no purpose,” Segil says. “That is when I realized that I would only be happy if I could pay it forward. I wanted to build a sisterhood – a community that could advise, support, enable, and celebrate each other for life.”
egil began by setting up three endowment funds – one at her high school in Johannesburg, another at her law school in Los Angeles, and the final one at her business school in California. She gave 24 women money for schooling and a commitment to mentor them for the rest of her life. She did this for eight years. Then, in 2017, she created the Exceptional Women Awardees Foundation, now renamed as Exceptional Women Alliance Foundation pivoting to mentoring only high -level women with a peer-to-peer approach.
The nonprofit now includes 110 women leaders from over 30 different industries, 36% diverse. Each woman participates in a 12-month long program and is allocated a peer mentor for life. Three out of four annual cohorts are composed of C-suite and Board level women. A final cohort is composed of women who are one to three levels below C-suite and aspiring to get there.
“The greatest reward is that our women leaders are significantly happier than when they joined the sisterhood – professionally and personally. And they are paying it forward to other women coming in. What a joy it is to see that,” says Segil.
Segil’s advice to those women early in their careers is, “Try everything. Take opportunities to veer away from your chosen path. Get off your screens and experience nature. Meet as many people as you can, and keep an open mind about everything – politics, education, and relationships. The world is a positive and exciting place!”