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Mentoring Future Female Business Leaders

by Dana Trexler Smith

With Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day both falling in March, it is a great time to consider how far women have come in the workforce and the achievements that are yet to come. According to the Center for American Progress, although women hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, they only represent 14.6 percent of executive officers; 8.1 percent of top earners and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. Further, in the financial services industry women represent more than 54 percent of the labor force, yet only 12.4 percent are executive officers and 18.3 percent are on the board of directors—none are CEOs.

Based on this data, and as a woman in the accounting field, it’s now more important than ever to encourage future female business leaders to pursue their passions, maximize their strengths and challenge themselves to pursue leadership positions. One way successful business women can help to advance women into executive roles is through both formal and informal mentoring. Here, we have a formal mentoring program in place through our “Women of EisnerAmper” affinity group, which provides programming tailored to the coaching and development of women. This program is led by our future female leaders and leverages current female leaders to inspire the next generation of women to find a seat at the table. We share our experiences and work with one another to develop the skills of successful leaders. Whether formally or informally, it is important that today’s female leaders form relationships with young women and that we advocate for them and challenge them to achieve their full potential, while paving the way for them to do so. It is equally important for young women to take ownership of their careers by asking for opportunities, which will position them for continued advancement.

Another aspect of mentoring our future women leaders is addressing the fact that women and men often have a different style and approach to leadership in the workplace, including the way women approach marketing and networking. Working with young women to help them highlight their strengths and view their differences as assets will help them develop and hone their leadership style. Further, recognizing these differences allows future female leaders to proactively build their teams to include individuals with diverse perspective, with the knowledge of how to adapt their leadership style to identify with these individuals to help the team reach its full potential.

Lastly, it is also crucial that we address many of the concerns these young women may have, including how to balance a leadership role at work and life outside of work. Many women still turn down a leadership role because they believe they are unable to have it all: a fulfilling career in a leadership position as well as a happy family life. We need to convey to women that as their lives outside of work continue to evolve, there are a multitude of programs and technologies which provide flexibility to balance these changes, while allowing for a successful career in a leadership role. The most effective way to demonstrate this is to lead by example.

Throughout my career, I have benefited from opportunities of which I would have been unaware without the advocacy of my mentors, who secured a seat for me at the table. With this in mind, it is now time to take a step back and pass that mentorship on to the next generations.

Dana Trexler Smith is a partner in EisnerAmper’s Financial Advisory Services Group.

Published (and copyrighted) in Philly Biz, Volume 2, Issue 3 (March, 2017).
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