Mentoring programs most beneficial to women business owners are well matched to the stage of business development and offer specific elements unique to women’s mentoring practices. So says a new study released today by the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC). The report, “Mentoring in the Business Environment,” examines existing, formal mentoring programs for women and men business owners by comparing program structures, identifying best practices, and exploring the unique characteristics among programs geared specifically to women. The study also reviews existing research on mentoring for women business owners and suggests avenues for additional exploration such as e-mentoring.
As of 2002, there are an estimated 10.1 million privately-held businesses in which a woman holds at least 50% ownership stake, including 6.2 million majority-owned women-owned firms. Women-owned businesses are growing at twice the rate of all U.S. firms.
“Women-owned businesses continue to drive our nation’s economy,” said Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Chairman and CEO of Carlson Companies and Chair of the National Women’s Business Council. “With this growth comes increasing demand for the resources and tools to facilitate business advancement. Good mentoring can be a key predictor of success.”
Seventeen organizations that focus on women, mentoring and entrepreneurship shared information about nineteen existing mentoring programs for business owners. The organizations included non-profits, membership organizations, universities, and government offices. The mentoring practices examined offer an understanding of what makes a program successful including planning, design, promotion, recruitment and support.
The study notes that at given points of a business’ maturity, a business owner appears to be best served by a particular type of mentoring program. In addition, there are some specific program elements that may prove especially beneficial for women business owners. The study reviewed three categories of mentoring programs, each of which may best serve a business in a specific stage or phase. These include:
Irrespective of whether an organization offers entrepreneurial training, a mentor-protégé program or peer-to-peer networking, there are three key effective practices for business mentoring:
The study also includes a review of mainstream and academic literature on mentoring for women business owners. The review reveals that discussion and analysis of business mentoring has focused primarily on corporate mentoring and related programs. Very little has been written on the topic of mentoring programming for business owners.
The study concludes with several recommendations for continued research and program support, including:
“This study is a critical first step in understanding more about existing business mentoring programs and how they serve women business owners,” said Carlson Nelson. “But this is just the beginning. This study will direct future research about mentoring programs and most importantly, it can inspire the creation of new ways to facilitate mentoring, such as e-mentoring, which will be vital in expanding the accessibility and immediacy of mentoring resources.”