For women in male-dominated industries such as restaurants, it’s critical to have and to be a female mentor
By Katerina Jones, Fleet Advantage
According to a survey conducted in 2018, 56% of American workers have had a professional mentor, while 76% believe that mentorship is important. For professional women in a male-dominated industry such as restaurants, mentorship is especially critical.
Having previously worked in male-dominated industries, including construction and motorcycle equipment, I have seen first-hand the impact mentoring can have. Through my involvement with restaurant associations and organizations, I’ve had the luxury of meeting hundreds of other professional women. Learning from these women has been instrumental in furthering my own professional career.
It has also shaped the type of mentor I’ve now become to other professional women—of all career levels—inside my own organization. I’ve made it a priority to focus on nominating women colleagues for industry awards and speaking engagements. I encourage them to attend women’s forums from various associations for additional growth opportunities.
It’s OK to not be “one of the guys”
I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 10 years old from the Czech Republic, not knowing a word of English. I worked two jobs in high school to help my mother make ends meet and worked three jobs while attending college full-time on an academic scholarship. I spent a lot of time in the restaurant industry, working on the weekends and holidays, envious of guests on the other side of the table.
At the start of my career, I felt the right thing to do was to become “one of the guys,” learning their way of communicating with one another. But along this journey I began to realize the importance of understanding the distinct differences between men and women—particularly in the areas of communication. I was fortunate to work in a company environment where these diverse voices were encouraged, even within a male-dominated industry.
Other women are not so lucky. Many do not have the fortune I’ve had with supportive senior management. This is where mentorship becomes so critically important.
Mentors provide many levels of support
The professional direction women receive from other women is essential. Consider the things female professionals need to be successful. Outside of professional talent and hard work, sometimes women need support from others to champion their ideas and goals—which, studies continue to show, may not always receive the same amount of direction and prioritization as those of male colleagues.
The right mentorship goes beyond emotional support and advice. It can be invaluable in helping up-and-coming female leaders understand and successfully navigate the political minefields that every organization encounters, male-dominated or otherwise.
Tips for finding mentors
Finding mentors can be challenging for professional women, particularly younger women. Following are a few strategies I’ve found useful:
- Mentors, like portfolios, should be diversified.
- Seek mentors with similar interests as well as dissimilar interests.
- Seek mentors from various age groups.
- Choose mentors who can support you in difficult times, but also challenge you and push you to be even better than you ever expected to be.
Mentors are special people who can see your potential and help you reach it even when there are difficult situations to navigate. They can help make the difference between a short-lived career and an enduring one, in which you can leave a lasting impression on not only women but the industry as a whole.
About the author
Katerina Jones is vice president, marketing and business development at Fleet Advantage, a leading innovator in truck fleet business analytics, equipment financing and life-cycle cost management. She was recently named one of three Trailblazer Top Brand Innovators by the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association, which recognizes individuals in the transportation industry whose achievements, performance and vision have helped shape their company or the industry at large. This past April, Jones was selected as a 2022 Influential Business Woman of the Year recipient by the South Florida Business Journal. For more information, visit FleetAdvantage.com.