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HOW MENTORING BENEFITS WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION

 

3/10/2022

61 Minutes

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Catie Williams:

Good morning, good afternoon, wherever you might be. Thank you so much for joining our webinar today. Happy Women in Construction Week. Our webinar today is going to be all about mentoring, and how mentoring makes such a difference for women, especially in construction. I’ve got several ladies here that have tons of experience, especially when it comes to mentoring, and are going to share their insights, and give you lots of good examples about how mentoring can make a difference for women.

Before we do housekeeping, we’ll do some introductions. So my name’s Catie Williams. I am the vice president of product development at InEight. I oversee a few different products, and the development of those products as well. And then I think we’ll go to Brandi, since you’re on the screen next. Do you want to go ahead and introduce yourself?

Brandi Heffner:

Sure. My name’s Brandi Heffner. I’m a director of product at InEight, specifically around the safety, quality and commissioning tools that we have. My background is in construction. And happy to be here, and share some mentoring ideas with you guys.

Catie Williams:

Yeah, I didn’t say that, but if you would share a little bit of your background too, that would be great. I know I was brief. But thanks, Brandi. That was great. Anything else you’d want to add about your background?

Brandi Heffner:

Just spent about 20 years in construction, in the field, came into technology, and that’s where I reside today. So lots of experience back and forth in construction.

Catie Williams:

Thank you. Ellie, you want to introduce yourself next? You’re on mute Ellie.

Ellie Barko:

Thanks Catie. Hi everybody. My name is Ellie Barko, and I am the product manager at InEight for a couple of our products, being Contract and Change, using Contract management and Change management, which are heavy tools used when managing a project. I came from about 13 years of construction experience, being in the field, being in the office, doing estimating. Kind of did all of those tasks, before switching over to the technology side. So lending some expertise there. And yeah, happy today to talk about some mentoring.

Catie Williams:

Great. Thank you, Ellie. Heather, thank you so much for joining the panel. Would you introduce yourself?

Heather King:

Hi everybody. My name is Heather King. I’m project controls manager for Safework, which is a construction management firm. I’ve been in construction, gee, about 16 plus years, in the office, and on the job site. I’m currently on the job site at Chaffey College, leading their project controls for their $700 million Measure P Bond, which I’m excited, because I love giving back, and working in education. And with that, I get involved in CMAA, and I’m currently the chair of the education committee, which puts on fabulous webinars like this. So I’m excited to be here today.

Catie Williams:

Great. Thank you so much. And Julie, also, thank you for joining our panel. Would you introduce yourself?

Julie Kantor:

Yes. Hi. I’m delighted to be here, and celebrate Women in Construction Week with all of you. And I’m the vice president of leadership culture, and diversity, equity, and inclusion for Change 4 Growth, an organizational change management firm, and I run the mentoring and sponsorship practice.

Catie Williams:

Great. Thank you so much. So from a housekeeping perspective, if we could switch slides. Please, at any time, ask questions, chat with us. There should be a box on the right hand side. I will try to incorporate anything that you ask during the webinar, in real time, as much as possible. Otherwise we will save time at the end for more Q&A.

And then if you could please give us feedback, so we know how we did, and what we can do to improve. There should be a way to rate at the top of the screen, and you should be able to give us on the heart scale, some feedback.

And then full disclosure, I have a cold. So if you see me blowing my nose or anything like that, I apologize. But thank you so much for joining, and we’re really excited to get started.

All right. So I think maybe just to kick things off, if you could share a story about mentoring, and how that’s impacted you personally. And I think if we… Ellie, you’re first on my screen, so if you want to start. And I think the more you can incorporate how that made a difference for you as a woman, I think that that would be great for the people that are listening.

Ellie Barko:

Yeah. Thanks Catie. So the first mentorship that came to mind, actually didn’t start from me trying to seek a mentor. I think the mentor sought me. So it’s important, I think, to be able to see that it can go both ways. I was real early on in my career, and I was running a job site. And for those of you… It was two of us on the job, that were running a multi-million dollar job. And it was a lot of work. And I, early on, found myself having some challenges in getting all that work done. And I was having a hard time asking for help as well.

And so I had kind of started to make it known that I was struggling with a few things at the moment. And one of the coworkers, that had been a year or two up ahead of me, he was like, “I’m going to come out to the job every week, two days a week, and I’m going to help you.” It wasn’t just for training. It was to teach me how to kind of organize the day, and how to help prioritize the tasks. Because I was pretty fresh.

And he did that for a month, and it was the biggest impact I had had. I learned so much in that month, it even gives me goosebumps to think about it now. And I was like, “That is amazing.” He volunteered himself, because he wanted me to succeed. And then that set up our relationship as my mentor, even to up until today. But for the remaining at least next few years, he was always somebody I could go to for, “Okay, now I’m running into this challenge,” and, “How can you help me through this?” And so it was just nice, because he sought me.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. I think you bring up a good point too. That we, as women leaders, should also remember that we should be looking for women or men that could use mentorship, and then trying to make that connection. I think that’s a really good point, and great advice, Ellie. Brandi, do you have anything that you would want to share?

Brandi Heffner:

Sure. Yeah. Mine’s kind of like Ellie. I don’t think it was the typical, “Will you be my mentor?” type of scenario. But I was always inquisitive. So when I first started out, I was like, “Why did we do that? What’s that?” That kind of thing. And one of the people above my boss, actually, took notice of that, and started showing me the back end stuff, like the stuff that I was not a part of at the time, and how it worked and everything. Things I didn’t even know to ask questions about. Which led to a bunch of opportunities for me, because I found different passions and stuff, that I never would’ve been connected with. So that was really nice. But yeah, it was the same. We didn’t seek each other out. But he noticed that I had questions, and kind of just walked me through that kind of stuff. So it was pretty nice.

Catie Williams:

That’s great. So mentoring is what you do, Julie. I don’t know if you have like a personal story about how you got to the place you are right now. If you have anything you want to add to this question? You’re also on mute. You’re all doing so great though, because I asked them to be on mute.

Julie Kantor:

Rookie mistake. Rookie mistake. So yeah, I had left a company, and really wanted to volunteer for a cause in my early twenties. And that cause was teaching entrepreneurship to inner city youth. And I remember reaching out to the guy who worked the closest to me. And I said, “I’d love to come in a day or two a week, and I’ll be your assistant.” And he said, “No, Julie. You can be my associate and friend.” So he was… I think I was like 21, 22 at the time. That became the beginning of a 20 year career and mentoring relationship, where he believed in me, and would challenge me. But I was never his assistant. He always treated me like an equal.

Catie Williams:

Oh, I love that story. Anything that you would add, Heather?

Heather King:

Yes, actually. I have a couple of mentor that I would like to talk about. At my previous company, when new people came into the company, they have mentor programs. So you could choose a mentor that you wanted to connect with. So there was this woman, Erin, and she was a senior project engineer. And I was just excited we had a project engineer, and she was a woman. I connected with her. And so she was my mentor. She was on another job site. She was on a big program, MiraCosta Community College, and I was at a K-12. So I would call her. And then she would call me throughout the days, check on me at the job site, call, just random calls. “Is there anything I can do? Is there a process you need help with?” Because I was new to the company. Not necessarily the industry, but the company. So she was great with mentoring.

And actually there’s one thing that stuck out, that I wanted to bring today. And she called one day, and I was having a bad day with the owner. They were asking me to tell them how much they had spent, and it was their job. So you try to handle the situation. And so I’m telling her about this, and she’s says, “Heather.” She goes, “One piece of advice I want to give you.” And she goes, “When you come into a situation like that, ask yourself, how could you have changed the outcome of the situation?” And I sat back and thought about it a minute. And I’m like, “Okay, you’re right. I could have did this. I could have done this.” And it’s just great advice that I’ve followed throughout. I even tell my son, when he’s making decisions, or something’s happened, “Ask yourself how you could have changed the outcome of that situation. So when it happens again, or you come across that experience, you know how maybe you could have dealt with it better.” With that… No, go ahead, Catie.

Catie Williams:

No, I was going to say, I know I feel like the most impactful mentors I have had, are the ones that maybe don’t call you out, but are willing to give you that feedback, that maybe someone else hasn’t been, right? And to give you that perspective, that it’s like, “Well, you’re not really looking at it from this angle.” So I love that example that you gave.

Heather King:

Exactly. And it kind of brought me down to like, “Okay, well maybe there is some things I could have did different to get the outcome I was looking for.” The next is more of an organizational mentor that I want to talk about. And that’s my involvement with the CMAA Southern California Chapter. David Pintar was involved with me in a committee. And when he became chair two years ago, he assigned me as his co-chair. And I’m like, “Are you sure?” And he said, “Heather, you’re involved. I think you’re great. I want to see you do more, and I want to give you that opportunity.”

So as co-chair… I was co-chair for two years, and then he pushed me, and he helped me believe that I could do it. Because he’s like, “When there comes the time for the chair, the chapter will send out a request, and you have to apply for it. You’re appointed. It’s not just voted. You have to apply for it, send an application, send a letter of interest. Even your employer has to send a letter of support, that they’ll support you in that position.” And he just pushed me, and helped me believe that I could achieve it. And it happened. But I was thankful for his mentorship on that organizational level, because it was very beneficial, very beneficial.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. I think that’s great. And that concept of supporting, sponsorship is definitely something we’ll get into more. You all kind of alluded to having a connection with your mentor, and we don’t have to spend a lot of time on this, but I am curious, because I think people listening would be interested in tips on what to do if you don’t have a connection with a mentor. And how do you gracefully modify that relationship, or even end it?

I don’t know if anyone’s ever had that scenario happen, where you think that it’s going to work, but then you really don’t connect or see eye to eye, and you need to find a way to not offend someone, but also excuse yourself from continuing the relationship. And you could answer it both ways, either as a mentee or a mentor. But I don’t know if anyone… I don’t want to call someone out if they don’t have an example, but if you want to take yourself off mute. I think Julie, you’re going to speak up.

Julie Kantor:

I think I’ve stayed off mute. Sorry about that. I run and build mentoring initiatives, and one of the things that I really like to do is to put a beginning, middle and an end. And so the relationship in a mentoring initiative… And there’s all kinds of data when you do a formal mentoring initiative that you can capture, to really understand the return on investment, and really benefits too, on so many levels, that maybe we can get to more.

But by having a beginning, middle and an end, so meaning that you have a relationship, a mentoring relationship, that, let’s say it’s six months or nine months, and you’re going to get together once a month for nine months. It enables both parties to get together, whether that’s 9 hours, or 12 hours, or 18 hours. And then the relationship comes to a conclusion after nine months. Now, if those parties want to continue working together for life, absolutely. But it takes some of the pressure off. And it also enables fabulous mentors to take on other proteges, and other proteges to take on and learn from other mentors. So I’m a fan of having that beginning, middle and an end.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. I love that. I think about really early in my career. I had someone that was kind of suggested as someone I should meet with as a mentor, and when we were meeting, we weren’t really clicking. And they said during that session, “Well, I’ll know if I made a difference if you meet with me again.” And it was this pressure about, “Oh, how do I maybe not continue it?” And so I’m just curious, how would you suggest handling that? Because I was pretty early in my career, and was like, “I guess I’ll meet with him a couple more times, and then maybe slowly stop.”

Julie Kantor:

I mean, absolutely. Maybe if you have someone in mind to be a mentor, say, “Could we get together? I’d love to get together with you once a month for three months.” Just again, put a timeframe around it.

And I also… There’s an art to matching. And a lot of companies just throw people together, and say, “Go for it.” And there’s not a lot of infrastructure or planning, as to what that relationship really is, or looks like, and how it’s structured. So a little engineering goes a really long, long way, and that gets to really having a blueprint strategy for a mentoring initiative. Without that, people can be very confused. Who’s supposed to call who can break a relationship, because no-one contacts the other person.

So I think that when I match people, I ask them to get together for their first meeting. And if for some reason it’s not a fit, no harm, no foul. We’ll rematch you. So get together, see if you feel like you can work together for the next six months, nine months.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. Those are great suggestions. So to segue a little bit, I know several of you mentioned having male mentors. How important is it to have both a female and a male mentor in your career? And maybe Heather, if you want to start this one. I know you mentioned having a male mentor.

Heather King:

I think it’s very important. But receiving mentorship, I think, from males, and this was… I was at a breakfast a couple days ago, National Association of Women in Construction, and they had a few programs for Women in Construction Week. And they had brought up this topic. And I think receiving mentorship from males can help your career progress, and maybe increase compensation for women, particularly for those in the male-dominated industries. I was thankful to have several mentors who are one, kind of at a peer level, and then at a more executive management level. And I think it’s very important to have both. But I think too, what men can do to support and help their mentors, is know the people that they’re mentoring, know what their needs are, and that helps champion the situation.

Catie Williams:

Sure. That’s great. Julie, do you have anything that you would add? Oh, sorry Brandi.

Julie Kantor:

I strongly… I think it’s the person, whether that person comes in a male body, a male form, or female form. Just having someone you can trust, who’s authentic, who’s a good leader, who’s a good listener, who cares about your career trajectory, who is an encourager, a challenger. I don’t care if my mentor is male or female. And I do think that having… I like the idea of kind of like a board of directors, a board of mentors, that I have mentors for different reasons. You know, someone might mentor me in management, other might mentor me in networking and sales. Or another could mentor me in skills competencies, or utilizing of certain technologies. So I think being open to multiple mentors, I think, can be really rewarding.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. That diversity of the mentors that you have around you, I think, is really important too. Brandi, did you have something you wanted to add?

Brandi Heffner:

It was just kind of along the line of both of them. As different genders, we offer a different set of skills, a lot of that being empathy, that kind of stuff. And I think when you have a diverse collection of mentors, like Julie was saying, you pick up other soft skills as well. It’s not just about the advice, and everything like that. It’s actually how the different people are handling things, that I think is important.

Ellie Barko:

Cate, I kind of actually have a question to it. It’s very important in my mind that you have some type of male leadership, but like Brandi said, everybody brings different skills. So I also think that… How do I say this? The generation is changing, right? So we’re getting more and more women in construction. But the higher levels don’t quite have as many women. We know that. And so I think it’s beneficial if those men can also help the young women, right? Not just the males. And by far, I think that they are.

But I think that, tagging onto what Brandi says, is it helps give them a different perspective, or give the empathy, or the thoughts like, “Oh, I didn’t think about the fact that you have to go onto maternity leave, and what that feels like for you.” Because they have never had to have that thought. I mean, that kind of brings a little bit more empathy into how they lead. And it doesn’t just benefit women. It benefits all of the people that they lead. So I guess the question is, as we start to seek… Mentees start to seek mentors, I think it’s also important that if male leadership can seek young women as well, to mentor.

Catie Williams:

Well, that’s a great point. And I think it leads really nicely into a topic that I know Brandi has a lot of feelings about, which is reverse mentoring. And maybe Brandi, you could say what that means to you. And then talk a little bit about how reverse mentoring can work, and the importance of it.

Brandi Heffner:

Yeah, for sure. For me, reverse mentoring just means that you’re tapping into an untapped resource, right? As the mentee in that, or the mentor in that case, you’ve got maybe the past experience of doing things. You have all the tribal knowledge, all that kind of stuff. And then tapping into somebody that has all the new knowledge that you haven’t been so privy to. And that can happen, maybe because you’re not involved in that stuff anymore. You’re at a level that that’s not part of your purview, that kind of stuff. And for me, the reverse mentoring is on both sides. So that mentor I was talking about before, he actually… I’m the mentor in that case now. He calls me for technological things, best practices that we’re using now, those kind of things.

And on the flip side, for me being the mentor, or the mentee, is a younger person that I’ve sought out, and I’ve really, really gained a lot from that. And not only just the advice and everything, or the actions, or whatever you’re getting out of the conversation, it’s the, like Ellie was saying, just having that perspective. It’s really a different perspective. And it’s really added to my ability to mentor people, because of that perspective. Exactly what Ellie was saying. So seeing it from both angles, on the reverse mentoring cycle, has really been eyeopening and fascinating actually.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. I think it’s really neat when it becomes a very mutually beneficial relationship, right? You’re both kind of learning from each other, and it’s not a one-sided thing. So that’s great. And does anyone else have anything they want to chime in about reverse mentoring? You’re going to take yourself off mute. Okay. Go ahead, Julie.

Julie Kantor:

Just there’s a lot of research showing that reverse mentoring leads to greater retention of our Millennial and Generation Z workforce. At Pershing, a BNY Mellon company, the executive leadership team each had a younger mentor, and the retention of those, in that reverse mentoring initiative, was 96% of the younger workforce, because they really felt good that they had something to contribute.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. It gives them a voice. Absolutely. So I heard… Just switching gears a little bit. I heard a stat yesterday, and I’ve heard it before, that there’s only… On the job site it’s 1% female. And so I’m curious your perspective, and Heather, we’ll start with you, about how does mentoring help recruit, and you just said a little bit of it, Julie, recruit and retain. So whether it’s having formal mentoring, or informal, maybe give some thoughts on how you think that can help change and increase that stat.

Heather King:

Actually I agree. That probably is 1%. I just found out the other day, that women in construction are only 10.9%. And that to me is incredible. There should be so much more. But I think what can help, starting at a younger age too, is more education programs to highlight the value of construction, even with middle schools. The organization that I’m involved in, National Association of Women in Construction, they go to middle schools, and have tutoring and programs there during… I think it’s a couple days during the year. And it’s kids blocks. And it even goes to the middle school.

But it brings the information to the kids, and lets them know, the women and young girls, that there is an industry that has a viable career path. And I think you just really need to get the… Educate, and educate the younger girls as well, that this is a viable career path. And especially, and you guys know all this, with the innovation of technology that’s just spearheaded in the last couple of years, has brought more opportunities as well. And I think the education of what’s out there, and I highly believe that educating the younger women as well.

Catie Williams:

Yeah, that’s good. Thanks. Ellie-

Ellie Barko:

I got one, Cate.

Catie Williams:

Yeah, go ahead.

Ellie Barko:

So I think it is a true stat. I put it on my post in LinkedIn, that I was one of two that went through school together. And I was one when I started my job. And there were two women above me. That was all I saw. Where you start to get… I felt like where some people can start to get stuck, is when they look for a mentor, they tend to look in-house, right? Like, “Okay, here, I’ve started my career. And I’m at my corporate job. Who in this vicinity can be my mentor?” Well, I had two women. And at that time, it didn’t maybe work out. The relationships builded over the years.

But when you start to get involved in other things, that’s where you can find them. Like you said, Heather, start to look at associations, the National Construction Women’s Association. There’s plenty of women there that are going through the same thing, just at a different organization. That’s where you start to build A, relationships for business development purposes as well, as well as mentoring. And you can just see your growth expand crazy, because they can mentor you, and help you with those challenges.

And it doesn’t have to be in-house. I think that’s the immediate thought. It was my immediate thought at the time. And it was like, “No, I have to build that…” You were saying board of directors, Julie. I call it a tribe, of all the people that can help me, and in what areas they can help me. And they’re outside of the organization, for sure.

Julie Kantor:

Ellie, I just couldn’t agree with you more. And the association, and finding those women, being proactive, and building those mentoring relationships. And women are much more likely to mentor other women. There’s also a lot of research on that. But when you have a very male-dominated industry, and you don’t have enough women at the top, those women can become overtaxed. So doing it where it’s through an association, and then building a sort of pay it forward chain, is a really powerful thing. But I 100% agree with what you said.

Heather King:

Cate, can I add to that? I 100% agree. And I wish I would’ve known about these organizations in my first half of the career. Now I feel like I’m in the back end of my career, and I’m going full steam ahead. But I wish I would’ve known, because there’s so much more that these organizations offer. And you’re exactly right, Ellie. There’s support, there’s sponsoring, there’s mentoring, there’s educational programs, there’s marketing. It’s great to connect. There’s job postings. There’s just so much that comes out from these organizations. I wish I would’ve known sooner. But now that I am in them, and I feel that I am in the back half of my career, what I’m doing is paying it forward, getting involved, putting out educational programs, informing my colleagues, just giving back. Absolutely.

Catie Williams:

I saw this quote, I think, yesterday, or maybe it was Monday, about how much representation matters. And if you don’t think that it does, then you’re likely well-represented. And I think that applies to a lot of things, especially people of color. I mean, just in general, representation matters. And I think that that’s… I mean, that’s what you’re saying, right? Like if you can’t see yourself in the role, and you don’t see yourself in the management and the executive, it’s very hard to see the potential and the possibility. And so, I mean, I think what you’re saying is so great. And mentoring allows you to see the possibility, and the representation there. And so, all your points are so good and valuable. It’s great. Brandi, do you have anything you want to add on before we switch gears?

Brandi Heffner:

Yeah. I mean, as far as the industry’s involved, I think the 1% of the women need to round up the 6% of the men that will enjoy mentoring, and get them to join us in our lead to bring more women into the industry. And I think that’s part of the representation from the male-dominated industries, that needs to happen. But I think a lot of us women can lead that way, as well as leading our own path, like Heather’s talking about.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. That’s great. Thanks Brandi. So switching to sponsorship, because I think it’s been mentioned a little bit, alluded to. Maybe Julie, you could define the difference between mentoring and sponsorship, and then we can have a discussion about why that’s so important as well.

Julie Kantor:

Yeah. Well, I remember I was at a hotel, and these women from the National Center for Women in Technology came to meet with us. And at the time, I was building an initiative to get a million women and men to mentor females in STEM skills, which is science, technology, engineering and math. And I remember this woman got right in my face, and said, “You got to focus on sponsorship, not just mentorship.” And she kind of… I was a little taken aback, because we had this whole plan.

But what I learned, and it’s changed really how I look at everything, is that a mentor is someone who’s there to share from their experience, to speak with you, and really open their books of experience, and share skills, knowledge and understanding. And they’re invaluable. And a sponsor is someone who champions you behind closed doors, advocates for you to get a promotion, a raise, a stretch assignment. So we say a mentor speaks with you, and a sponsor speaks about you behind closed doors. And if we want more diversity and inclusion at the upper echelons of corporate America and beyond, we really need to champion people more diversely. Not just give them advice and mentoring, but champion them on their career trajectories.

Catie Williams:

Does anyone have a… Oh, go ahead, Ellie. You got an example or something? Yeah.

Ellie Barko:

I don’t have an example. It’s kind of I’m tagging in with questions.

Catie Williams:

That’s perfect.

Ellie Barko:

Because Julie’s the great wealth of knowledge. So familiar with the mentorship, so throughout coming up with this webinar and stuff, I was thinking like, “Oh, who would I pick to be my sponsor?” Is it more of a I should be choosing the sponsor, and kind of going that route, then kind of the mentor a little bit finding me? What’s the best way to structure that, Julie, if you don’t have that structure within the organization?

Julie Kantor:

I mean, one thing I love is I think there’s a huge opportunity for women to co-sponsor each other, find ways to champion each other. And it could be someone you met through an association, or through… But a lot of times the sponsor picks you. A lot of times they’ll pick you, and they’re willing… They see that you’re good. They believe in you. It’s merit-based. You’re strong. And they’re willing to then champion you. But I do know some savvy, young female executives, who get together with their sponsors, and tell them, “Look, I want you to champion me, and can we have a plan together?”

So sometimes, more and more, we’re working with companies, and teaching people how to mentor and sponsor, and how can they champion their high potential talent, and formalize that process? So more formalized sponsor programs in addition to formal mentoring programs. And by championing up, you’re driving more people to higher levels, and promotions, and opportunities. And that can be scaled.

Ellie Barko:

Yeah. I think it should be thought about. I guess, again, I come from an experience where I saw other men get sponsored, and I felt like I had to fight to find a sponsor. I hope that that’s changing, and the more men we get into mentoring, and realizing that, and becoming more diverse, I feel like that will change. But that was kind of why I asked that question.

Julie Kantor:

You’re hitting on… The Association for Talent Development did a study. Women are three times more likely to have mentors than men are. And men are twice as likely to have sponsors as women are.

Ellie Barko:

Go figure.

Julie Kantor:

So this is something, a much longer conversation, but it is-

Ellie Barko:

But it’s a challenging one, that we face, right? Because, I mean, I’ve had those things. Like, “How come I’m not getting that promotion? What did I do wrong? What did I do differently?” “Ellie, you didn’t do anything differently.” So ultimately I can maybe pinpoint that to maybe I just didn’t have a sponsor.

Julie Kantor:

And then how to build those relationships. And it might require asking people to champion you. It might.

Ellie Barko:

Yeah.

Julie Kantor:

We might need to be asking more, or building those relationships. And understand the difference between the mentor and sponsor. And also, I could relate a lot with what Heather was saying. I now, because I know the difference, when people call me, I try to practice sponsorship as much as I can. So I try to champion other people, and be really situational as to whether I’m mentoring or sponsoring. But it’s not that hard for us to champion, and take those sponsoring activities. So I actually really enjoy it now. But I had to learn the difference first.

Ellie Barko:

Yeah.

Julie Kantor:

Now that I get it, I get it.

Ellie Barko:

And you can sponsor more than one person. You can sponsor more than one person.

Julie Kantor:

I sponsor people every week.

Ellie Barko:

See? Good to know.

Julie Kantor:

I love it. I love it.

Heather King:

Can I add on to that?

Catie Williams:

Yeah. Yeah, everybody please keep going.

Heather King:

And Julie, I agree. I think there needs to be more information discussing mentorship and sponsorship. I was fortunate, where I had someone come to me at my current employer, Rebecca Jones, who is actually the owner. It’s a woman-owned company. But she started it 30 years ago, and she’s really had to go through the trenches. That’s incredible. I love strong women. My mother was strong in the aviation industry. So I come from that background, and that support. “You can do anything you want to do.” And I think that really helps.

But Rebecca knew that I was involved in CMAA, and she used to be the national president, years ago. So she’s tracking what I’m doing. And she came to me, and she said, “Heather, where do you see yourself in five years?” I said, “Well, actually I would love…” And I was just throwing things out there. “I would like to get involved, and get on the board.” And she says, “I want to sit down with you and make a plan. Where do you see your five years? And what can you do?” And I said, “I really want to get more involved with CMAA.” And she said, “Okay, well, what is it you want to do? Where do you see yourself in five years? And let’s sit down and make a plan. The steps that are going to get you to where you want to be in five years.”

So I sat down with her, and we made a plan, and I started doing the things on her plan. I contacted the president of the chapter, and had lunch with him, and said, “This is where I’d like to be. What can I do?” And I came back to her, and she just really helped advocate me for inside the company. And she, like you say, under the radar, made sure that people were aware of what I was doing, and what I was getting involved in. And that was everything. That sponsorship just was everything. She really helped, and I give her credit for pushing me into believing, and making that plan, and advocating for me, to get to where I want to be.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. That’s a great story. I love that you shared that. Brandi, you were off mute for a little while, so I didn’t know if you wanted to jump in there with anything?

Brandi Heffner:

You can keep going with the questions, and go on. I think leaving on Heather’s note is a great one.

Catie Williams:

Okay. I mean, I wanted to touch on the formal versus informal program. But I think too, Julie, you said it’s important to understand the difference. And I’m curious before we talk about the formal program, can you be both? Can a person be your mentor and your sponsor?

Julie Kantor:

Absolutely. When we do mentor certification trainings now, I often find that there’s sort of a desire to build leaders by teaching them to mentor and sponsor. So we just dub that mentor 2.0, which is we’re going to train you to both mentor and sponsor. And then you’re going to determine, I don’t want to sponsor someone if they’re going to show up, for example, for a job interview, and they’re going to show up unprofessionally dressed and 30 minutes late. I might mentor them, but I don’t want to sponsor them to the president of that company, if I know that person. So I think that it’s situational.

And a lot of times we really look to HR and department heads, to identify that high potential talent, that should be rising through the ranks in opportunity in a company. The other thing that a sponsor can do, is to champion people in the hiring room. We say the hiring room is often not a meritocracy. So if you have a couple of candidates, who is there advocating for that senior female to make it to vice president, or director level, or you know. So who is there? A sponsor is the one who will be advocating, even for employee. So I do think you can have both, but a sponsor has to have power and influence. So you can have someone who’s a great mentor, that doesn’t have power and influence in the company.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. That’s a really good point.

Julie Kantor:

It’s not always the same person.

Catie Williams:

What about when someone asks you to be their sponsor? I mean, how have you handled… Like you just said, “I’m not going to be that person’s sponsor.” Do you then say, “Well, I’m willing to be your mentor, but at this point I don’t feel like I’m ready to be your sponsor?”

Julie Kantor:

I mean, I’ve had… I was at a conference, and this woman asked me to get together, that she wanted me to be her mentor. And we sat down. It was at a women in technology conference at Silicon Valley. And I said, “Sure, I’ll get together with you. Sure. Let’s talk.” And she realized there was an opening on my team at another company. There was an opening on my team, and it became very clear she did not want me… She wasn’t looking for mentorship. She was looking for… We were going to get together, in that I absolutely had to give her the job. So she was looking really for something else.

So I think it’s important. And it wasn’t a… So there has to be some clarity and understanding of what mentorship is, even what coaching is, and what allyship is. We talk a lot about men as being allies to women in the workplace, and that’s growing, growing in popularity and focus. But again, it’s situational. And you have to figure out. If I don’t feel like I’m going to be a good mentor to someone, and if they don’t have clear goals of what they’re looking for in the relationship, if I don’t feel like I can truly help them, I might try to help them find someone else. It doesn’t always have to be me.

Brandi Heffner:

I’ve found sometimes that when I do have… Kind of along the lines, when I do have someone say, “Hey, will you champion me?” That I end up mentoring them more at that time. Versus maybe some of the times that I’ve found the top talent to champion myself. So how do you… Have you ever been in a situation where you’re like, “Okay, let’s step back from sponsorship, and get into mentoring and coaching first.” Anybody had any of those situations and conversations?

Catie Williams:

I know I just recently have had that scenario, where it’s like there’s definitely interest in the next step, but it’s again about figuring out what those building blocks are to getting there, versus trying to make that big leap, I think. And so I would agree with you, that I do think that it’s really important then, to kind of switch the focus to there’s some more here that probably needs to happen. And then I’m more than happy to be that champion.

Brandi Heffner:

Yeah. Do you think you should be the mentor first, and then the champion? Do you think that’s a… Or should the building blocks go outside, and then championship come back in?

Catie Williams:

That’s a great question. I assumed it was to Julie, but-

Brandi Heffner:

Anybody.

Julie Kantor:

Well, one thing I’ve found… I started my own company in the mentoring space. It was called… And then we just merged. But I found that when I got together with a man, they would immediately make introductions, and be very willing to open doors for me. But I would get together… Men were… They didn’t need to know me, to champion me. And I think that in women, it probably started more with mentoring, and respect, and trust, that led to the championing. Often if asked. If asked.

But one thing that just really struck me, is I remember getting together with this woman who works with like 85,000 women in technology. And so I said, “Okay, I’m pulling out my LinkedIn. I want to see who I know. Who do you need to get to? And how can I champion you and your work to all these people?” And she turned bright red, and she said, “Julie, I don’t know what to do. I’m not used to people offering to help me. I’m not used to people offering to champion me.” And I’m like, “You are running a cause with 85,000 women in technology. We should all be helping you.”

So part of it is comfort, your own comfort in asking for help. And also taking baby steps, to try applying some sponsoring principles. That could be sponsoring your friend’s daughter or son for a job opportunity or an internship. Opening a door for someone. And I think it’s something that… I think both mentorship and sponsorship are really important muscles, that like exercise, we need to flex. And it should be part of every leadership training out there. How do you mentor? How do you sponsor? And if you want to get into the data and the return on investment of both, it’s off the charts positive.

Catie Williams:

Do you think… And this is to anyone. Do you think there’s ever a point you reach in your career where you don’t need a mentor? And I don’t know if Heather or Ellie, if someone wants to chime in about it. I know I personally feel like no, you always need to be surrounded by those people. But I don’t know if anyone else has any strong opinions about it.

Heather King:

I agree with you, Catie. As long as you can get a mentorship. And you’re never too old to learn. You’re never too… And if someone mentoring usually has their resources or experiences that you can learn from, it’s a win. How could you not want those, their valuable resources, which are their experiences that they can provide to you?

Catie Williams:

Agree. I think you can always be developed.

Brandi Heffner:

I think that’s where-

Catie Williams:

Sorry, Brandi. Go ahead.

Brandi Heffner:

No, that’s fine. I think that’s where the reverse mentoring comes in handy. When you think you know everything.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. That you’ve mastered it all.

Brandi Heffner:

Yeah.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. No, I agree.

Brandi Heffner:

Look down the lane, because you haven’t. And there’s, like Heather said, always time to learn anything.

Catie Williams:

Right. I’m going to take a brief pause to see if there’s any questions. We haven’t had anything come in yet, which means we’re just knocking it out of the park. And if nothing comes in, I was hoping we could talk, spend a little bit of time about informal versus formal programs, suggestions for if there isn’t the appetite for it. Ellie, you talked about one of two, and how do you affect change when there’s that few individuals, and maybe your corporation doesn’t have the appetite for a program. So we’ll just, if anyone has… If they want to start on that topic… I’m not seeing anything come in yet. But if something does, I’ll stop, and make sure that we pivot to that.

Heather King:

I would love to hear from Julie how we start those programs. How do you start? Even if there’s only a couple, how do you start that?

Julie Kantor:

Well, I’m actually running three mentoring programs right now. One for diversity executives to mentor each other, one massive one for women in manufacturing, and another one for all the employee resource groups within a major hospital center here in South Florida. And I think it starts with the blueprint strategy, the why. Why are we building this? Do we want to do… What is our objective here, and why are we building it? Do we want to elevate more women into the workforce? Do we want to drive greater diversity, equity and inclusion? Enable people to be their more authentic selves at work? Are we trying to replace the water cooler conversation, where people have gotten increasingly isolated, especially during COVID, and we have some real concerns about mental health, and wellbeing of our employees? Again, are we trying to… What are our objectives? So I think we start with the blueprint strategy.

And then we are very serious, that there needs to be clarity to the relationship. There’s an old song. “It takes two to make things go right. It takes two to make it out of sight.” But having clear expectations of the mentor’s roles, the protege’s roles, or the sponsor roles, and what does this look like? And for it to be successful, we strongly believe in a mentor action guide, so that you have a bit of a roadmap. And as a… If I was just looking for a mentor, I would just try to create a framework for the relationship, and have some tangible goals. What I’m looking for. Could we get together three times or six times? And can I take you to coffee? Or I might send someone some Starbucks cards or something, because they’re taking the time for me.

And by the way, I had a leadership coach, and that leadership coach charged, it was like $250, $300 an hour. If someone’s willing to give me 45 minutes of their time, and I’m going to just learn from their experience, that’s an invaluable gift. And I want to make sure I have things to give them as well. So I really like what Catie said earlier, is to really look at this as a mutually beneficial, bilateral reciprocal relationship, between someone who has skills, knowledge, and experience that I want to learn from, and vice versa.

So I think that again, I believe a little engineering goes a long way for larger companies, but for smaller companies doing fun things. I love speed mentoring. It’s kind of like speed dating, but you have a mentoring theme. And in 60 minutes you meet five other employees. And it’s a great happy hour. It’s a great virtual Zoom. And just doing some speed mentoring, quickly people can realize, and maybe find their mentor in the mix. So doing some things like that.

And honestly, it’s very important that the C-suite support building mentoring. Mentoring’s like apple pie, but it doesn’t mean companies are eating it. So the C-suite, the top, have to be executive sponsors of any mentoring initiative for it to be sustainable. So there’s just a couple thoughts.

Ellie Barko:

I really want to tag in. I’ve been itching to grab on that one. Having gone through the experience, I tried to initiate a woman’s mentorship program, and I quickly learned I can’t do it by myself. I have a day job and a family, and I couldn’t do it by myself. So to what you’re saying, Julia, is A, you have to get buy-in from upper management and suites, so they can back you. And then two, you have to kind of have somebody else who can help run it with you. Thank you, Catie and Brandi for initiating the InEight women one. But you two do it together, right? I mean, it’s a lot harder to do it on your own.

So those are the struggles I ran into kind of the first time I tried to do it, but I did have it in mind, as to what I wanted to do, right? Like Julie, what you said. And that was just to even give women a safe space in construction, because I had gone on my first maternity leave, and was terrified. And I had nobody to talk to about it, at the time. And I was like, “I never want another woman to feel that way.” And so that was kind of the initiative that started that. But just making sure you can have support to start it from management, and then support to help you run it, because it takes some effort, for sure.

Catie Williams:

Those are great points, Ellie. Thanks for sharing. Okay. We did get a couple questions. So I love this one. As men, what’s something we can do differently, or in support of you, to help move the needle for women in construction? Brandi, do you want to take it?

Brandi Heffner:

Yeah.

Catie Williams:

Not to throw you on the spot.

Brandi Heffner:

No, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s anything that they can do differently. I think it’s just do more of. Maybe that is differently. But I think more of supporting, treating us the same, championship. And even if that is just being the ally. Maybe you’re not championing me, you’re not getting me a raise, or getting me a promotion, but you are my ally, and you help build my network that way, that kind of thing. And I don’t know if that’s differently, like I said. But be more present, be aware, know that we want to be included. We don’t want to be separated as just women in construction. We’re all in construction, and we want to be included in that.

Catie Williams:

That’s great. Heather, do you have anything? Again, not to put you on the spot. Anything else to add to that?

Heather King:

No. I think in the stories that I’ve heard, where men have been supportive, know your people. Know your people, and know their needs, and be that unbiased ally. And it really helps in the company. But yeah, know your people and their needs, and how you can support them.

Catie Williams:

Yeah. And I think asking questions is so important. And Ellie, you and I have talked endlessly about maternity leaves, and I think it is a big, big thing. And just someone understanding the feeling that you’re going through, and asking questions so they can see your perspective, makes such a difference. And no, they won’t know exactly what it’s like, but at least they took the time to understand the fear that you’re feeling, and help, right? I mean, that goes to everything, not just maternity leave. But asking questions to see things from your perspective makes a world of difference.

Okay. I think we only have a couple minutes left. The next question is what resources are available to train mentors to be more effective? And that’s probably a perfect… Julie, you probably have a lot of resources to mention.

Julie Kantor:

If you go to twomentor.com, T-W-O mentor.com, we put out a return on investment of mentoring white paper, on incredible data, to help build the business case, to get support within the company to run a mentoring initiative. And so I think that that’s a really good resource. And then I think it’s talking with HR, your HR department, to see if you want to establish a mentoring program within your company, or checking through an association, if they have an initiative.

A lot of companies hire companies like mine to come in, and build and run. So I tell companies… I say, “Look, we’ll take 90% of the pain and stress off you. We will build and run your mentoring program, as an extended part of your team.” So a lot of clients are like, “Julie, please.” Like what Ellie said. “Just please, can you just deal?” But it just depends if the company really wants to build something, or pilot something. A lot of times the pilots start with well-meaning individuals, and they can do it for a couple years. Someone really believes in it. But then they kind of shift away from that, or they leave the company, and then you don’t have a mentoring program anymore.

So that goes to really the buy-in from the top, and doing a blueprint strategy. And what I can offer is, we do a free assessment, where we can help you identify where you are, and make some recommendations to help you get off the ground. So if anyone wants to contact me, I’m not sure if you could share my contact information. But we’re happy to do a free assessment, to better understand where you’re at, and a couple recommendations to help you get going.

Catie Williams:

That’s great. Thank you, Julie. So I think we only have two minutes left. So does anyone have any final thoughts that they want to share? It can be about women in construction, mentoring. Any final comments for the webinar? All right. If not, quickly, so we stay on time, because I’m notorious for going over, an explanation between ally, mentor, sponsor. Just what’s the difference between those three?

Julie Kantor:

I’m going to throw in really quickly, because this is just the coolest. This is important, and I forgot to say it earlier. At Sun Microsystems, in the engineering department, people that went through a mentoring program, people that mentored, got promoted six times more than people who didn’t. In a Gartner Wharton study, Wharton School of Business, they got promoted six times more. Mentees got promoted five times more. Retention rates of both the mentor and mentees were 20% higher than the people who didn’t mentor.

An ally is someone who will ally with you, and make… A little different than a sponsor. It’s a bit of an advocate. Someone who shows… Might stop someone who says something really sexist or discriminatory. They might say, “Hey, that’s not cool. Don’t talk about her that way.” They will be there for… Men as allies, they’re there for us. They’re our brothers. And they will help advocate. But it’s a little different than a sponsor. And a mentor, again, is someone who shares from their experience, wants to see you grow in your career trajectory. And a sponsor is someone who champions you for opportunity behind closed doors.

Catie Williams:

That was great. Thank you so much. You kept us right on time. So thank you so much for being on the panel, and giving us your time, to our presenters. And please rate the presentation. Or the webinar, not the presentation. See, my head cold is getting to me. But please do the heart rating, and then any feedback. We’d love to know what else you’d like to hear about, any other topics for webinars, or where we could do better, or differently. And thank you again. Just appreciate your time so much. Thanks for joining. Have a good rest of the day. Thank you.

Heather King:

Thank you.

Julie Kantor:

Thank you. It was great to be with you all. Brandi.

Heather King:

Yes. Everybody.