A woman walking into a meeting of SCORE mentors right now might feel a little out of place. The vast majority of people volunteering for the organization locally are men.
Kathryn Ross is leading a charge to change that at SCORE’s Lancaster-Lebanon chapter. Ross, founder of Lancaster County business advisory firm Kross Strategies LLC, recently hosted a networking happy hour to teach local women about what goes into becoming a SCORE mentor.
Ross has volunteered with SCORE for about a year and a half, sharing her expertise with business owners who might not otherwise be able to afford her services.
She would like to see more women do the same. Here’s why:
Why should women volunteer?
“We have a wonderful chapter; however, just due to the original creation of SCORE, it tends to be very male-dominated,” Ross said, referring to SCORE’s origins as a mentorship group made up of retired executives.
“They’re wonderful, wonderful people, but what I started to notice is there’s the missing voice of women in leadership working with these small business leaders … Because the number of women-led businesses is growing, for these women-led businesses to be mentored by other female executives has incredible power.”
Only about five of SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon’s roughly 60 active mentors are women, Ross said. Having a strong core of women volunteering could, she believes, encourage more women to become leaders in the business world – and that could improve bottom lines at the companies to which they lend their talents.
What kind of qualifications should a mentor have?
SCORE offers several levels of mentoring, making volunteer opportunities accessible to more than just retired executives.
Lead mentors generally need about 10 years of increasing general management responsibility, Ross said. Subject matter experts – who provide guidance only in specific areas of business – need about six to 10 years of experience in their chosen subject.
Neither role requires that the volunteer have led a large company.
“You don’t need to know everything,” Ross said. “You need to be a good ear; you need to be empathetic.”
Mentors also do not need mentorship experience. SCORE provides training to all new volunteers.
Ross believes becoming a mentor could prove especially useful to younger professional women who have stepped out of the workforce for family reasons and want to rebuild their resumes, as well as to women who are nearing retirement and want to stay active in their communities while scaling back work responsibilities.
Can people still volunteer if they work full-time?
The organization generally likes mentors to give between five and 10 hours per month to their volunteering, but when those hours happen is generally up to the mentor and mentee.
A mentoring meeting can take place over a lunch, during the weekend or any other time that works for the two people involved.
“That’s the joy of SCORE,” Ross said. “It doesn’t have to be every Tuesday at 4 p.m., 5 p.m.”
What’s the first step in becoming a mentor?
Ross hopes to host another women’s networking event in the spring, but professionals interested in volunteering for the Lancaster-Lebanon chapter can apply online at any time.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of hours per month SCORE mentors are expected to devote to volunteering. The error has been corrected.