Female Mentors: Mary Ann Donaghy Leading the Next Gen to the C-Suite
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Female Mentors: Mary Ann Donaghy Leading the Next Gen to the C-Suite

Female Mentors: Mary Ann Donaghy Leading the Next Gen to the C-Suite

Name: Mary Ann Donaghy

Title: Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer

Company: Zips Cleaners

Years in Franchising: 1.5

Number of units: 70

Can you describe the role mentoring has played in your career? First, I would say that I think everyone should have a mentor starting early in their career. I never had one single mentor that I could reach out to. I wish I had. However, I have had some excellent bosses and role models that I admire who have helped me continue to grow and improve professionally. In addition, I have nurtured relationships with women over the years who have been very successful while also juggling motherhood, and they have been inspirations to me.

Why is mentoring important for female franchise leaders? Female mentors in particular are important for women to see that other women can rise to the top. Women must support other women and help them refine their skills in their professional areas and also as leaders. Women’s work styles are very different from men’s work styles. We must embrace and appreciate those differences. We don’t have to be like men to be successful. But we need to focus on what’s important to make the business successful. That’s all that matters. And generally, women have approaches that are different than men, which provides a balance and broader perspective.

Far too often, I’ve found women not supporting other women, unfortunately. I’ve witnessed railroading, jealousy, resentment, and frankly, cattiness that is unprofessional, unhealthy, and damaging to the company and its culture. I could write a book about it! Every female in the business world I know has experienced it, which reinforces that we need to support each other and mentor each other, not tear each other down. I take that very seriously as I manage younger women.

What are the key elements of a good mentoring relationship? Ask thoughtful questions. Listen to the answers. Be honest. Be supportive. Sometimes, a little tough love is necessary. The key is to provide perspective, so the mentee has the bigger-picture view of their role in an organization to put the issues they might have into context. The mentee needs to know they can trust you and that you have their back.

What are the benefits of mentoring programs for female leaders looking to advance their careers? Perspective, honesty, guidance, and strategy. Without a mentor, I didn’t have anyone to provide a long-term view, so I made some decisions and career moves without looking at the larger picture. More seasoned executives have the benefit of experience from their careers and from watching the careers of others. You don’t have that perspective when you’re younger.

How is a mentor different than a coach? A coach’s job is to push you to win. A mentor’s job is to help you be as successful as you want to be and make decisions that will help you achieve your goals. Those goals are different for different people. Some want to rise to the C-suite. Some want to change careers or shift to another function. Others want to figure out how to have more work-life balance.

What role did mentoring play in your path to the C-suite? I had a boss at AOL who later hired me at the University of Maryland Global Campus. He made me appreciate the value I provided and helped me to see how I was different. He provided me with the support and guidance to know I had earned a C-level position. I had the confidence to know I had earned it.

How did mentoring help you in other business relationships? It helped me to focus on creating a win-win and approach everything from the perspective of what’s good for the company.

In what ways has mentoring helped you build confidence in your decision-making? It helped me to understand my value and that I was especially good at seeing the big picture and making data-driven decisions while tapping into common sense and intuition.

In what ways has mentoring helped you set goals and achieve objectives? It gave me role models to aspire to emulate.

What were the three most important things you learned from mentoring? Confidence, perspective, and the importance of developing positive relationships.

How can mentoring help the next generation of women on their path to the C-suite? Women need to help other women, and young women have every opportunity to achieve their career goals. Things have changed a lot since I started my career. Women have nothing stopping them from their goals except themselves.

What advice do you have for female executives considering mentoring? Just do it! Women need other women.

Published: April 1st, 2024

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