An Interview with Clare Beckton, Top 100 Winner, on Fairy Godmothers, Mentors and Sponsorship

17 Dec

Do fairy godmothers really exist? Fair enough if you respond to that question with: “Do unicorns that gallop across rainbows really exist?” – except the difference here is that I’m being serious. YES, fairy godmothers exist, however in our 21st century world they’re more likely to wave their magical Smartphone and pass you an enchanted business card. Oh, and they don’t go by the label of ‘fairy godmother’, instead we simply call them women of success and knowledge, who are mentors and sponsors to those around them.

Clare Beckton Top 100 AwardToday we would like to introduce you to a woman who is undeniably successful in her career that crosses education and public service, having served as Deputy Head of the Status of Women in Canada, sitting vice-chair on the board of directors for the Queensway Carleton Hospital, current Executive Director of the Carleton Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership (and creator of the program), and is a Canada 125 Medal recipient as well as a Women’s Executive Network Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 winner. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Clare Beckton.

(Cue the roaring applause!)

Clare strongly believes in the concept of mentoring and passing on insights to those who are developing or in transition with their careers, and she was kind enough to grant us an interview on the subject of mentoring, sponsorship, and fairy godmothers. If you are hoping to find a mentor, or would like to become one yourself, or simply want to hear ideas of the incredibly capable Clare Beckton, do read on :

Clare, Do you think the women mentors of today are like fairy godmothers to those coming up?

I can see how women who are successfully mentored might think so but a fairy godmother was always able to do things with a wave of a wand. The fairy godmothers of today can’t do it with a wave of a wand. I guess if you could redefine what a fairy godmother means, then they can be women who take the time and have the commitment to help other women and men.

Would you agree that sponsorship is not the same thing as mentering

In my opinion, no. A mentor  works with you to give you advice, to help you move through the system, but they may not be in your organization. They may not be a person of influence within your organization. Whereas a sponsor ,either has to be in the organization in a position of influence, or connected with that organization where they can assert some sort of influence for your advancement. A mentor works with you personally and has an interest in your career advancement. For example, some of the people I’ve mentored, I’m not in their organization and I don’t have any influence over their organization. I can help them and guide them and provide them with advice and support.

So if youre not in the organization, what motivates you to provide all that, because it must take energy?

I believe strongly in giving forward. I feel very blessed with the opportunities I’ve had in my life, I learned a lot through my life experiences and I get a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure in helping  women at all levels. I do a lot of mentoring and coaching of young women, but also women in transition in their lives to help them make that transition through re connecting with their passion and key strengths, and identifying any fears that might be holding them back.

And how does the relationship work?

I think you have to have a personal connection, in order to mentor. And you need to be able to listen, and not make judgement. If you want to be a mentor, you have to work with the person, you need a relationship that’s comfortable where  there’s mutual trust and confidence in each other.

Relationship is created when the mentor listens, the protégé knows what they want, and both are clear about what they  want  and expect in that relationship. Like if you come to me and ask me to be a mentor, but you’re all over the map and you don’t know what you want . .. well, that’s going to be more challenging. Then I will do more coaching initially than mentoring. Which I personally may do because I do have coaching training, but, and sometimes  people don’t know what they want and  are in a quandary about what to do next.

Now if someone were looking for a mentor, or a sponsor, what kind of advice would you give them?

It depends. If you are looking for a sponsor, you need to do some influence mapping of your organization or where you are in your life, and see who’s in a position to be able to advance your career. Do you have a relationship with them? Are you visible to them? If you are seeking a mentor, you may decide to become part of a program, or you may see someone you admire and ask them  to mentor you. There are going to be people you see, who in your view are successfully managing and you’d like them to be a mentor. Certainly you have to have the courage to ask someone to mentor you.

What about for people who know what they want, but have difficulty putting  themselves out there. If someone has difficulty being visible, or approaching others, where should they start?

To move forward to accomplish your goals or dreams  you need  confidence in your own abilities, and if you do not have confidence in your abilities, working to build your confidence and identify your key strengths is important. It’s also understanding that in order to do these things, you have to be responsible for taking the initiative. Even if you, for example, don’t feel confident about speaking, then there are ways to improve that through training, through things like Toastmasters, or how to do effective presentation courses, you have to be responsible for your own development.

Seeking  the kind of development that you need to build on your strengths is key to your success in your chosen career.

Which comes first, self development or the vision?

I think you have to have the vision first. I always say you start with the values, the vision, the strengths, and then you move forward. But if you don’t have a vision, if you don’t have a dream of where you’re going, it’s very hard to get there.

It’s like going out for a Sunday drive and not having any destination in mind. You’re going to get somewhere, but it may not be what you really wanted to do that day. And if you go through life without a dream or a vision, without a destination, you may find yourself buffeted by the forces around you in a way that you might not like.

It’s not like if you have a vision or a dream you’re not going to encounter challenges. Of course you will. But you’re probably going to be better able to deal with those challenges because you have firmly in mind where you want to go and what you want to do. You will then be guided by your internal compass and not buffeted by external forces.. We can control our response to these forces even when we cannot control them.

And what are you doing now with you work at the Carleton Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership?

The whole concept of the centre is what Im passionate about and why I didn’t ‘retire’. This is retirement for me. I’m very passionate about advancing women’s leadership because I believe in gender inclusive leadership. The work we’re doing in the centre, the research , the training , building partnerships to advance existing work and working on filling gaps in research is so important and fulfilling. I have a series of workshops that I offer on owning your own success for women; I do coaching and mentoring, I build networks and engage people because I passionately believe that we can make that difference. If we have gender inclusive leadership, we will have a better country and  better organizations.

Sister Leadership would very much like to thank Clare Beckton for her time and insight. Clare is an annual mentor in the Womens Executive Network mentoring program, as well she teaches half day workshops for WXN and can be contacted directly should you be interested in her workshops for women owning their success.

Keep your eyes on this page for more features from incredible women who are giving back.

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One Response to “An Interview with Clare Beckton, Top 100 Winner, on Fairy Godmothers, Mentors and Sponsorship”


  1. An Interview with Clare Beckton - Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership - April 21, 2014

    […] Read it here […]

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