Breaking Through: A review by Bob Morris

Breaking Through: Stories and Best Practices From Companies That Help Women Succeed
Martine Liautaud
John Wiley & Sons (April 2016)

How and why mentoring and sponsorship programs can help to accelerate the professional development of high-potential women

If anything, the insights in this book are even more valuable now than they were when this book was first first published.

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So, what needs to be broken through? Barriers based on race and gender that have absolutely nothing to do with merit.

It is no coincidence that the healthiest organizations have a workplace environment within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive for females as well as males.

And it is also no coincidence that the healthiest organizations are annually ranked among those that are most highly admired and best to work for; and they are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry.

You find no barriers based on race or gender (or any other irrelevant, in my opinion toxic criterion) in the healthiest organizations. Compensation and opportunities are based on merit. There are structured programs in these organizations that provide all manner of support resources at all levels and in all areas, including mentoring and sponsoring. There are no gender inequalities because they are wasteful and, more to the point, they are unethical.

Martine Liautaud is the founder of the Women Business Mentoring Initiative, an organization driven by successful women entrepreneurs. She wrote this book to explain how and why mentoring and sponsorship programs can help to accelerate the professional development of high-potential women. But make no mistake about it, as countless others have: The initiatives that Liautaud recommends can be of substantial benefit to both females and males. Those who aspire to become C-level executives should not be denied or accepted because of their gender. Moreover, there should be institutional support of their aspirations.

Some of the best insights in the book are provided in the interviews of pairs of mentors and mentees – in the same organization — who enrich the narrative with their personal experiences and observations from different perspectives. For example, at Publicis Groupe, Mentor Michele Gilbert on her relationship with Charlotte Guillabert: “I think that talking to someone [over a period of six months] who can see the bigger picture relieves the anxiety and stress that you might feel when you begin to question yourself. And sharing experiences was a good way to help Charlotte find her way through difficult situations.” (Page 143)

I also appreciate the key points in gray boxes. For example: “In the evolution of today’s organizations, we rarely fight the battle of access. What we are fighting now is the unintended consequences of good intentions. To do so requires discipline, vigilance, and leveraging our support networks.” (Page 42)

One final point about healthy organizations: They expect mentees to be come mentors who can help others who then in turn….you get the idea. If your organization is exhibiting flu-like symptoms, enlist Martine Liautaud as your mentor. There’s important work to be done and she will help prepare you to be equal to the challenges that await.

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