Lately, I’ve been talking a lot about mentoring. It’s a subject I’m very passionate about, and something I believe everyone should benefit from during their career. I’d like to recognize and thank all the male mentors who have helped me throughout my life. Men are just as crucial as women to supporting women’s careers, particularly in construction. The advice and guidance that these men have given me have shaped my thoughts, my attitudes, and my career in ways that I am extremely thankful for.
No article about male mentors would be complete without mentioning my dad. I was lucky to have parents who were good listeners, gave great advice, and were very open-minded, especially my dad. I could talk to him and always get an honest answer. He was a very objective person, who never put any stock in traditional gender roles – which was lucky for me, being a tomboy. The best lesson he taught me was not to let anyone tell me what I could and couldn’t do. He made sure I knew right from wrong, and that I understood that I had to live with the consequences of my decisions, whether good or bad.
My second mentor was a man called Johnny Dahms who owned a topsoil yard. Johnny taught me how to negotiate my first raise, from coaching me on what to say – and what not to say – right through to telling me exactly how to sit and act. It worked beautifully. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he knew how to read my then-boss’ mind and knew exactly what he would do. Without that coaching, I wouldn’t have known how to handle the situation.
My next mentor was a real estate manager named Saul Shapiro. I literally ran into him while waitressing and we became good friends. When he asked me to come work for him, I protested that I knew nothing about construction. “I’m not worried about that,” he said. “You’re a good manager, and I’ll teach you the rest.” And he did. He was a fair man whose word was his bond – if you shook hands on it, you knew it would happen. I learned how to build people’s trust from him, as well as how to negotiate – that man taught me how to split a nickel, something that has come in handy throughout my project management career.
The Supporting Cast
There are plenty of other mentors I could mention, and I could write another book on the people I’ve met who have inspired, advised, and mentored me. Let’s leave it at: you know who you are, and you have my thanks.
The key takeaway is that mentors come from all walks of life, and men have a valuable contribution to make to women’s careers. Who is better placed to help a woman navigate a male-dominated landscape than a man? And for the men reading this, if you want to support women but aren’t sure how, I highly recommend reading Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women, an excellent, no-nonsense guide aimed at helping men become excellent mentors of women.