1-in-5 Women Missing Out On Mentors, New Survey Finds

Last Updated Oct 28, 2011 6:24 AM EDT

Everyone knows business is often as much about who you know as what you accomplish, but according to a new survey one-in-five women aren't acting on that reality. At the Pennsylvania Conference for Women this week, professional social networking site LinkedIn revealed the findings of its latest survey of 1,000 professional American women, and the results showed a shocking percentage of respondents aren't taking advantage of mentorship.

While a hefty 82 percent of those surveyed agreed that having a mentor was important, 19 percent, or nearly one in five reported never having a mentor. When asked why they lacked a mentor, 67 percent said that no one ever asked and 52 percent blamed the situation on never having met anyone appropriate. But according to LinkedIn's connection director Nicole Williams who spoke at the Pennsylvania event, these excuses shouldn't be enough to put women off the benefits of mentoring, which are vast:

Tooting your own horn is just one of the many ways you can increase the likelihood that you'll shatter the glass ceiling and snag keys to that corner office. If you're uncomfortable speaking up about your accomplishments, then often times, your best bet is to seek out a sponsor or a mentor in your office who can vouch for you.
Williams also argued that waiting in the wings for a mentor to approach you isn't a solid choice for women and urged them to be more proactive. Career blog CAREEREALISM, reporting on the study, concurs, saying "Ladies, c'mon now! This response tells me three possible things: You are too picky; you are being lazy; you think you don't need mentoring. Okay, get mad at me for stating the above, but if you think about it â€" it's true!"

There was some good news in the survey, however. Each generation is getting savvier about mentorship. While just 34 percent of Boomer women reported having been mentored by another woman, 43 percent of Gen X and 51 percent of Gen Y have found a female mentor. That suggests that women are slowly closing the mentorship gap with men who have long used the boys club to advance their careers.

Younger women hoping to make it in the professional world should take the survey as the kick in the pants to actively seek out mentors that it is. And if you can't find just the right person who combines all the skills and knowledge you're looking for, why not try assembling a personal board of directors of folks with complimentary skills to help you in your career. That way you won't lean too heavily on anyone individual and may feel less shy about building relationships.

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.