When Your Best Mentor Is… Mom

Many young women will be getting together with their mentors on Sunday—their moms.

Few of today’s senior managers had their own mothers as professional role models. They were more likely to be among the first women to rise to high-ranking jobs in their companies or fields. A growing number of women managers and professionals today, however, are mentoring their own daughters—sometimes in the same fields—as the young women build careers.

Taking on this new maternal role as a professional mentor can be challenging. These relationships can be rewarding, but also fraught with tension, as young women strive for independence and mothers walk the line between giving needed guidance and meddling too much.

Parents who mentor their children must avoid imposing their own views, says Ilene Lang, former president and chief executive officer of Catalyst, a New York nonprofit provider of research and advice on advancing women. Mentor relationships should be driven by the younger person. Ms. Lang adds, “You have to be conscious of, ‘How much of this is my agenda, vs. their agenda?’ ”

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