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Female Mentorships Prove Beneficial to Growth of Both Mentors and Mentees

Dr. Valerie Senatore Smiling Headshot

Beginning her career as an air traffic controller, Valerie Senatore, PhD, yearned for a strong female role model in a male dominated industry. Deciding it was time for a change, she shifted her career to pursue roles in higher education, where her passion for teaching fast-tracked her rise to leadership. Today, Senatore serves as the Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Bryant & Stratton College, an achievement that she credits widely in part to the guidance and encouragement of her female mentors throughout her over 20-year tenure in the education industry.

How Senatore Sought Out Mentorships

Senatore met her most influential mentor while working as a Dean at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, MA. The College’s President, Dr. Mary Fifield, would make a point to regularly gather the College’s female staff members at all levels within the organization for collaborative lunches where they had an opportunity to connect and provide each other with support.

“Dr. Fifield created a ‘safe space’ for the women in the organization to share their challenges and engage their peers for brainstorming,” said Senatore. “She really opened my eyes to the importance of women utilizing peer mentorship in the workplace, and that stuck with me.”

From there, Senatore began seeking out mentorships with other women that made a real difference in the careers and lives of both mentor and mentee. She believes that there is a common misconception that mentees are drawing all the benefits from these relationships, but that is not the case.

Defining Effective Mentorships

“Effective mentorships should involve mentors stepping into their mentee’s reality to understand the changes in modern day career trajectories,” she said. “The relationship should force mentors to strategize how to apply guidance that is relevant to their mentees’ situations, and you learn a lot about how the business landscape has changed for up-and-coming professionals. When you understand that the mentee is also the mentor, the value of the relationship becomes that much more robust.”

To foster an effective mentorship dynamic, Senatore stresses that the first step is finding the right pairing. Young professionals should seek out mentors that hold a position that they aspire to reach in the future to help guide them towards strategies to accomplish their goals. On the other hand, mentors should evaluate the purpose of the mentorship and only pursue relationships where the dynamic will be a productive one for both parties - as opposed to engaging only in pairings of convenience. 

Additionally, mentors must be willing and able to dedicate the time needed to foster a successful relationship. Often, that means agreeing to a lifelong commitment. However, while mentors might be spending a lot of time with their mentee, it’s key to keep the relationship focused on growth and development. 

“It’s imperative for mentors to always keep interactions professional and aim to add value to for their mentee in every meeting and conversation. Even though it is natural to develop a repertoire over time, mentors aren’t meant to be “buddies” or a sounding board for complaints and problems. Their role should be focused on providing constructive solutions.”

Most importantly, says Senatore, mentors should help young professionals establish realistic goals and expectations of themselves. “Women don’t need any more pressure to ‘do everything’ or ‘be the best.’ Encouraging female mentees to recognize the unrealistic and aspirational nature of societal and internal pressures and expectations will help guide them to the best routes to achieve their goals.”


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