As Canadian Shipper was going to press, Canada’s Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, the Honourable Dr. K. Kellie Leitch, announced a new initiative entitled ‘It Starts with One -Be Her Champion.’
This campaign challenges leaders in all fields to “make a difference in a woman’s career by becoming her champion.”
The ‘It Starts with One’ campaign is designed to engage leaders in both the private and public sectors as champions for women by taking a pledge to participate in formal or informal mentoring efforts.
According to the federal government, research suggests that 88% of entrepreneurs with mentors survive in business, compared with a 50% failure rate for those without a mentor.
This issue, Canadian Shipper provides coverage of two panel discussions around women in logistics and women in trucking as well as other “non-traditional” industries looking to recruit more women into the field.
During Trucking HR Canada’s Women with Drive Leadership Summit, at which I was a moderator for the panel of female executives representing other industries, Leitch announced that the Government of Canada is committing $421,720 to develop mentorship programs that will help further the careers of women in the nation’s trucking industry, and identify best practices that can better support the hiring and retention of under-represented demographic groups.
While the announcement of the money and the program is surely a positive for such industries, there’s a part of me that winces at some aspects of the ‘Be Her Champion’ campaign.
I like to think that some of the best mentorships happen by themselves, where they should and when they should, and that if there is a need for a formal program around mentoring, that it should not single out one sex over another.
Perhaps that is coming from a naïve place, and from the fact that my own personal work experience has offered me many mentorship opportunities and the experience of having been unofficially championed, in several industries where women were considered to be “under-represented”.
While an official advisor or supervisor, whatever the construct, may be well placed to guide you on the proper path within an organization when it comes to all practical aspects, I feel it’s the “mentorships by osmosis” that have the best success, and these don’t have to be official programs as such.
In University I was part of a “formal” mentorship program that was a neutral experience overall. It was never monitored and there was no follow-up. As mentees we were matched with people in jobs similar to those we aspired to.
The problem is, sometimes you just have nothing in common with people in the very same job.
And as women, it’s important to remember, we don’t automatically all come from exactly the same place in terms of values, priorities, and paths taken to get there.
This particular experience left me with the conviction that there have to be some sort of metrics around the programs that will offer something to both mentor/employer and mentee.
We think of mentors as people who have a positive influence on our careers, but you can also consider those who influence us negatively to be meaningful mentors.
You have to take little bits and pieces from many experiences and many individuals in your working life, including those whom you never want to emulate.
When all is said and done, and as emerged from the panel discussions Canadian Shipper profiles in its Women in Logistics feature, we never want to overlook a job candidate because of sex or race, and while it remains a fact that many women are under-represented in various sectors, and there’s a lot of work to do around that, it’s about the right candidate, the motivated candidate, quite apart from the sex of the candidate.
If mentorships are what motivate and encourage the “right candidates” to move forward, then I’m all for them. But they must move beyond a “feel good” gesture into something concrete, well-managed and measurable for both mentor and mentee.
Julia Kuzeljevich is Editor of Canadian Shipper. She has been writing about transportation and logistics issues since 1999. All posts by Julia Kuzeljevich