Lisa Massa

Senior Vice President, Head of Human Resources, U.S.

Bayer

In your opinion, what qualities make a “Moves Mentor”?

I see a mentor as someone who has a tremendous responsibility to serve as a trusted and true advisor. A mentor has to be willing to share their experience, their learnings, and often their failures to help their mentee grow. Over the course of my career, I have benefited from mentors and been honored to work with talented people in my professional and personal life.

In particular, the piece about being trusted and true is what is essential to be a strong mentor. A mentor needs to have competence and confidence to support a mentee, but they also need to be willing to share on a deep level, being empathetic and open throughout the mentoring relationship. 

I also look at my fellow Moves Mentor nominees and see many influential figures across mentoring and diversity and inclusion – it’s a fantastic representation of women leaders from across industries, all who play an important role in shaping the next generation of leaders. 

How does mentoring benefit the mentor? Career-wise? Intellectually? Spiritually? Socially? Any other “-allys”? 

I find that being a mentor is often as impactful as having a strong mentor and engaging with people I’ve mentored has benefitted me on so many levels. Connecting with people who are often earlier in their career, from different backgrounds and underrepresented communities, has expanded my understanding and challenged me to look at things in new ways. When I’ve formed these trusted relationships, it’s given me the opportunity to look at the world differently, both in my professional and personal life. I, today, seek out former mentees for perspective as I contemplate opportunities and challenges.

Should mentorship be a company requirement or a personal give-back?

The development of the people within your organization should be a requirement. At Bayer, we’re currently on a performance and development culture journey, ensuring our company is not one just focused on delivering business results, but also developing the talent of our employees. Within such a performance and development culture, there is an excellent space for leader mentorship as a priority. While it’s vital for companies to support mentorship, to be a truly impactful mentor you must be fully committed and personally invested in development. It can’t solely be a requirement. 

What is your mentorship method? Do you prefer a more hands-on or laidback approach?

I use a mix of both. Each mentoring relationship is unique and it’s really about what works best for the individual. When I go into a formal mentorship relationship, there should be a clear understanding of what the mentee seeks to get out of it, and therefore having this conversation and aligned goals really helps. As the mentoring relationship grows and evolves, there will also be topics and conversations that are more spontaneous or situational. I believe mentors and mentees both have a responsibility to show up, be present and open to get the most out of the relationship.

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time 15 years?

I would probably tell myself that it’s okay to ask for help and to really go after what you want. In addition to that – don’t doubt yourself. Like many women, in the past I struggled with thoughts like “should I go for it?” or “I’ve never done it,” versus telling myself to go for it, figure it out and you will do it. Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that you need to truly own your own career and development. I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors and sponsors along the way, but at the end of the day it’s my responsibility to build the career I want.

“In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism… in the 21st is century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for fairness and gender equality around the world.” *  Why is gender equality even a challenge, especially in the ‘enlightened’ western world?

Let’s be clear, issues like racism and totalitarianism are not solved. The same goes for gender equality, which continues to be a challenge. We still have social constructs where women bear more of the responsibility for the household, whether it’s children or taking care of aging parents or family. There is an amazing quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg – “Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” As we witnessed throughout the pandemic, we are not there yet. In the US, we saw women leave the workplace because of challenges at home – taking care of ill family members, helping children with virtual learning – that primarily fell on them. This quote also speaks to the power of allies. When men are our allies, they have an opportunity to step up, if not already bearing their fair share of responsibility, to raise the generations to come. 

What do you want the next generation of power women to know?

Be authentic and true to yourself – don’t work to be something else. Know your strengths and own them, take advantage of them, and make them your brand.

Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?

Fifteen years ago, I was offered the opportunity to work in Europe. At the time, I was based in the US and part of a dual income family. I thought there was no way I could do it, no way it would work for my family. My then-boss told me she heard me, but that she was not taking my answer until I went home and spoke to my family about it. 

I went home, had the conversation and landed in a place very different from where I thought we would. To support me and enable our family to take advantage of this opportunity, my husband left his job and we moved to Europe, with me becoming the single provider for my family. He got to spend a lot of quality time with the kids, which forever changed their relationship and our relationship as a family. This moment also changed who I was as a leader and the course of my career. And to think, I almost said no without really giving it the consideration it deserved. 

How does diversity play into mentorship?

Diversity is an important element of leadership in a few ways. First, the mentor/mentee relationship is most powerful because there are different experiences and backgrounds that can be shared. Mentees can grow because of the diversity a mentor brings, for instance a mentor being further down road in their career or even in a different career path entirely. Meanwhile, a mentee also brings a different set of experiences and insights, whether related to work or education experience, their gender or background. Those differences can be a benefit to both parties. 

Second, if you assume that there are still systematic or societal barriers holding underrepresented populations back, targeting a mentor program towards these populations is a way to help drive equity, transfer knowledge and experience, and help be an equalizer.

What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take for women’s power and equality? (e.g. affirmative action?)

If I were to pick one, it would be access to quality, affordable family care. That said, it’s really hard to pick one – everyone has their own experience.

If it is true that whenever women are involved in any one aspect of life – domestic, business, recreation –  the empirical evidence shows that activity is enhanced in a real and tangible way, why is there such fierce resistance to this female influence?

We live in a society where there are social systems in place that have existed for a very long time, including a society that for many years limited opportunities for women. We’ve made great progress, but we still have far to go to reach equal gender representation in many fields. I believe we’ll see greater support for female influence as we make progress in gender representation in the workplace, government, sports, and other areas.

Who do you most admire? Why?

As far as public figures go, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was a trailblazer; she was incredibly resilient and very much true to herself. She became a legend but didn’t set out to be that, only to be herself. Personally, my paternal grandmother. She sent her husband off to war, raised a family of six, made education a huge priority and gave me great advice as a child. She always said a good education and money in your own billfold will allow you to do anything. She was the person who instilled in me that I could be whoever and do whatever I wanted with my life.

Comments are closed.