Pre-pandemic, New York state-based consultant and coach Pam Sherman spent much of her time flying around the world — from Milwaukee to Morocco, she quips — helping chief executives and teams hone their leadership, business development and communications skills. But when travel ceased and her work moved to Zoom, Sherman worked with an audience she often doesn’t focus on but is passionate about: young women at the nascent stage of their careers.
Sherman and her husband, TAGeX Brands CEO and founder Neal Sherman, are active in YPO, a global leadership community comprised of more than 30,000 chief executives. Sherman had coached YPO members before, but it was her daughter Eliza, a recent college graduate, who convinced her to take on a small cohort of young women to mentor, focusing specifically on women in leadership.
Eliza is active in the community of young adult children of YPO members and had benefited from a mentoring partnership with a female YPO member. She stressed to her mother how important it was for young women to address their own specific leadership challenges.
“I’m passionate about my mission, which is to help leaders present themselves and their stories,” Sherman says. “I do what I do for men and women. But then I thought about what she said, and I realized she was right. People who identify as women have all sorts of issues regarding leadership that need to be addressed – including finding their voice, building their confidence, and growing their leadership stories and connections.”
It was not easy, Sherman says, to narrow down the large pool of applicants to six women to form a six-month mentoring circle. “Every young person is looking to have a life of meaning and impact,” she explains. “They want to know how to make deeper connections and to grow their own leadership, how to manage and balance life.”
Her plan was to incorporate aspects of her own leadership model, dubbed EDGE, an acronym for explore, dream, grow and excite, with YPO’s mentoring recommendations and further customize the program with the topics the women identified. The six, including a Moroccan living in Paris, a woman from Miami traveling in Barcelona and a Malaysian living in Vancouver, chose to explore pay equity, negotiations, unconscious bias, imposter syndrome, female stereotypes, i.e., mean girls and pleasers, and intersectionality.
Here are key take-aways from their experience.
Your career path won’t be a straight one
Working with her cohort, Sherman highlights her own professional journey. “As a mentor, my job was to facilitate, to lead discussions and share my stories and insights based on what I do, what I’ve done,” Sherman explains. “My story is helpful to a lot of young people. They can see how a career trajectory can traverse many different ‘jobs’ and still have a through-line and an arc to fulfill your mission.”
Sherman’s story starts with her working in Washington D.C. as a lawyer. But she ditched the financial security to pursue her childhood dream of being an actor. Since then, she also has been a syndicated columnist, adjunct professor, consultant, speaker — even a TEDx speaker — and coach.
“I was extremely lucky because I’d always had a dream, and a lot of young people think, ‘I don’t know what my purpose is. I’m not sure what my dream is,’” Sherman says.
Sherman had her mentees focus on identifying their values, getting to the root of what is important to them.
“Once you learn your mission is not about a specific job, in a particular city, but rather about the impact you want to make in the world, then you move toward making that impact via a career journey, knowing where you want to go is important but so is being satisfied with learning and developing along the way.”
Leading is the best way to learn
The group met monthly and were expected to present on the leadership topic they chose, conducting one-on-ones with each other.
“I wanted them to learn from each other,” she explains. “I wanted to make sure that they gained insights from my story, but also learn to champion each other. It was really interactive, not only tackling situational leadership, but managing the typical discussions women face in leadership and addressing them in their own unique ways.”
While research has identified that women and men exhibit different strengths when it comes to leadership, Shermans says her experience has shown that the differences are not about style. “It’s about women stepping up into their leadership. Women have a voice; they just need to learn how to use it,” she says.
Women’s superpower is emotional intelligence, Sherman says, adding that the research shows there is room for improvement when it comes to envisioning. She adds, “This made me crazy because I thought, how can that be? I’m a dreamer, and I know so many women who have vision. But it turns out that the research is really about how women communicate around vision.”
The kids are all right
Witnessing the women form strong bonds during the program and leave with strong personal mission statements that will serve them as they launch their careers, Sherman calls the experience a success. She left with a major learning of her own, one that may comfort today’s leaders navigating an ever-shifting landscape.
“We can be very hopeful about our future with these kinds of young people in the world,” Sherman says. “They are kind, grateful and independent. They come with the YPO culture of curiosity and generosity and have a true understanding of the need for meaning and impact.”
YPO members interested in introducing their children 18-30 years old to YPO mentoring can learn more about this unique opportunity by visiting the YNG information page.