November 21, 2018 by
Photography by Contributed

According to a 2016 study done by the Women’s Fund of Omaha, women make up only 19 percent of the board members at S&P 500 companies, and 25 percent of executive or senior level positions at those same companies.

That same study found that 42 percent of women in Nebraska work in management, a better figure yet. And one method of increasing those numbers may be for women to mentor other women in the workplace.

In this abridged roundtable discussion, B2B talks about mentorship with four businesswomen from Omaha—Anne Branigan, senior vice president of Innovative Services at Greater Omaha Chamber; Melissa Farris, marketing manager at Boystown; Sharon Robino-West, community employment coordinator at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Omaha; and Dr. Maria Vazquez, vice president for Student Affairs at Metropolitan Community College.

B2B: As a female mentor, what do you bring young women that benefits them as younger women in the workplace?

Vasquez: I am just in awe of the young women I mentor. They are dynamic, further along than I was at that age.

Farris: I’m open to being OK to saying “I don’t know.” I want you to be able to collaborate. I want you to find the answer to better the team.

Robino-West: To be able to say I am weak in this area and I need your help.

Branigan: The younger women have been able to adapt to technology so well. The acceptance of that new technology, to me, is something else.

Farris: We have grown up with technology. There is an expectation that this is going to work.

B2B: What do you gain from being a mentor to young women?

Vasquez: I like to see them having the confidence to do things, and if they make a mistake they own up to it. I want young women to be their authentic selves. Accepting who they are and what they can contribute to the workplace.

Robino-West: Last year, there was a Girl Scout who has risen through the ranks, and I asked her what she wanted to do after college. She looked right at Fran [Marshall, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska] and said, “I want your job.” That was so empowering.

Branigan: I really enjoy learning from them. You think of mentoring, and you think it’s one way. But I always appreciate someone making me think, or learn something, or showing me a new way to do something.

Farris: I’ve been on the receiving end. I’m still close to one of my mentors from college [Dr. Eileen Wirth of Creighton University]. One thing that always stuck out to me was her availability. The fact that I maintain that relationship 12 years later is a success.

B2B: Can you give us an example of a great experience with mentoring?

Robino-West: I did a TEDx Talk last year, and I partly did it to challenge myself. I didn’t think I’d get picked. It was about healing by writing. I got done, and I got in the elevator, and there was someone right there, wanting to know if I could speak to a different group. Rita [Paskowitz, a TEDx Omaha coach] “get ready, you’ll be asked to speak on a regular basis.” so I could see him paying it forward and spoke out. I thought “Wow—you just never know what kind of an impact you will make.”

Vasquez: About 10 years ago, I was contacted by someone [Amanda Ponce] to speak in a Latina sorority. We stay in contact, and now she works at MCC. Her growth has been quite dynamic. We’ve always collaborated informally, but now we can do so formally as colleagues. That has been rewarding.


This article was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.