The mentorship gap and why young women may outpace their male peers

Women's tendency to nurture and mentor younger women may contribute to the increasing success of young women.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  • Joy, an ambitious and driven recent high school graduate, sought advice on managing her time effectively as she prepares for university while balancing a job.
  • Our conversation highlighted the unique mentoring dynamic between women, inspiring Joy to focus on personal growth and goal achievement.
  • Meanwhile, a male colleague reflected on the different approaches men often take in mentoring younger men.

I was on a call with a younger friend called Joy, last Thursday. She completed high school last year and is in that exciting in-between space of discovering more about herself, her passions and interests in life as she awaits to start 'uni' in a month or so.

Joy is sunny, energetic and completely switched on – and what’s even better? She has a strong Christian foundation, with God as an anchor. She is the kind of girl who, when you meet, you naturally tell things like, “The world is your oyster!” and actually mean it.

At 18, she has a drive that will make her succeed at anything she puts her mind on. I met Joy through her dad who works in the same company as me. When we had our first sit down, we hit it off like a house on fire. Since then, our relationship has blossomed without much help from her dad, even morphing to become a mentor-mentee kind of thing.

Quit job

We were on phone for about 15 minutes. Her questions ranged from how she can spend her spare time wisely when she joins university, to what I did during my own time in 'uni' to give myself a head start in the job market. Just months after high school, Joy already works at a fashion store in the city as a sales girl. Her biggest worry when she called was that when she joins 'uni', she will have to quit her job… and she didn’t seem to believe that her classes were enough to fully occupy her time. And she was right.

“I know I may have to quit my job when I start going to school. Do you know other things I can do?” she asked.

Joy was facing the eternal question of many ambitious young women. When you have the energy and zeal to do so much but not enough hours in a day to accomplish it all. I remembered being her age – desiring to do so much, feeling like just going to school was not enough. I did not immediately have all the answers to her questions especially because I can’t tell the future. But I was sure of one thing – Joy’s personality, faith and drive will see her through.

“I think you shouldn’t worry too much about that. I know for a fact that many things will come up, that will engage you. Let’s keep talking. For now, focus on your job and immediate goals. Also, take time and do a skills audit. List down all the things you are good at. This will give us a good place to begin thinking through how to keep you busy once you begin university,” I said.

When I got off the call, Kibz, the colleague who sits next to me, and who had listened to part of the conversation made an interesting comment.

Facial expression

“You know data is now showing that more women between the ages of 20 and 30 are buying cars, compared to men in the same age group,” he said.

I did not immediately connect what he said to my conversation until he continued.

“You see, that conversation you have just had with that girl has inspired her. I am sure she is going to look for books to build herself, and by the time she will be joining university, she will have learned from you how to focus. The more you continue to inspire her, I am sure the more she will focus on and achieve her goals,” Kibz said.

I knew he was not done with his thought so, when he paused I continued listening. “You know us men…,” Kibz trailed off, with a facial expression that made me start laughing.

“Kwani you guys don’t mentor each other?” I asked.

“Us men we are somehow different. You see that straightforward conversation you just had with her, if I was the one having it with a younger man, probably I would have invited him to a pub to talk over a bottle of beer. And even then, the message would not have been delivered as effectively as you have just done. After the first bottle of beer, we would have moved from serious conversation to just me gassing him up…” he said.

At the end of the little chat, Kibz and I agreed that yes, women tend to naturally want to nurture younger women in their spaces, even informally, which could explain why there seems to be an increase in sure-footed young women.

But did Kibz make any commitment to mentor the younger men around him? Well, he said he will try but that will be challenging because of the socialisation men receive. That’s a long story for another day.

The writer is the Research & Impact Editor, NMG, [email protected]