When I came up in the advertising business, mentors were few and far between—especially for women trying to find their voice in a male-dominated industry. While advertising in the late ’80s and early ’90s was not a daily gantlet of sexist comments reminiscent of “Mad Men,” there were some elements of that. Although a few leaders felt the responsibility to impart some lessons to the next generation, it wasn’t formally encouraged. Mentorship was an afterthought.
Over the years mentorship has grown along with the number of women advancing at agencies. Still, there are few formal mentorship programs at many large corporate agencies. Mentorship is like a college elective for C-suite level agency staff: You can mentor if you choose, but you won’t be rewarded for it come bonus time. Within big agencies, you are more likely to find community-building resource groups—which are great—than you are an organized process for mentorship.
And with the emergence of for-profit mentorship programs, would-be mentees have complained even more about the lack of formal mentorship programs within the ad community. That development led in part to a crowd-sourced Google Doc to connect mentors and mentees, but it hasn’t been updated since 2021.
That formal mentorship seems to be a lost art is a shame, because if there ever were generations that need mentoring, it is Gen Zers and millennials coming up thanks in large part to repercussions from the post-COVID work-from-home mindset. coming back to the office—in many cases for the first time—after years of working from home.