ABA Roundtable Discussion: Mentoring Women: Is It Different?

The Health Law Litigation and Woman Advocate Committees of the American Bar Association held a roundtable discussion on January 11, 2016 on the topic of mentoring women. The panel consisted of three pairs of mentors, Wendy Weiss and Jennifer Klem from Navigant Consulting, Inc.; Laura Colombell Marshall and Amy Bowen from Hunton & Williams LLP; and Christy Tosh Crider and Caldwell Collins from Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC.

Some key takeaways from the discussion were as follows:

  1. A good mentee is prepared for meetings with her mentor, is open-minded about suggestions a mentor makes and always has a positive attitude.
  2. A good mentor recognizes a mentee’s strengths and weaknesses, is available and considers mentoring a priority, and is always honest with his or her mentee.
  3. Best practices for mentoring include helping to spot opportunities in which your mentee can shine, pointing out your mentee’s successes and nominating your mentee for internal awards.
  4. In seeking out a mentor, a potential mentee should be proactive. Attend conferences and events that will allow you to meet inspirational role models and leaders in your field.
  5. There are many advantages to the less traditional “co-mentor relationship,” including networking opportunities that result from such a relationship and the opportunity to learn from each other and exchange ideas. (“Co-mentoring” being where both parties take turns mentoring one another.)
  6. For female associates with children, some tips on working with senior male professionals who may not necessarily have an understanding of your personal situation include:
    • If you produce good work, you will have more credibility when asking for flexibility;
    • Set clear boundaries for when you can and cannot work; and
    • Understand when you need to stretch your boundaries for exceptional circumstances.