Mentoring programmes help empower women into leadership roles. Time to introduce them in your organisation, says Nicola Cronin.
Reading time: 3 mins 30 secs
The journey up the career ladder often looks rather different for men and women. Globally, only 29% of all senior management roles are held by women. While this is currently the highest in history and progress is certainly being made, it’s still well short of equality.
There are a whole host of historical, societal and biological factors that explain why this disparity exists. But as we strive for a more equal and inclusive society, we must turn understanding into action and look how we can all make a change.
This year, the International Women’s Day theme is Each For Equal. The campaign is a call to arms for everyone to take mutual responsibility and be involved in the fight for gender parity.
“Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world” it says on the official site. “Equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue.”
The message puts necessary pressure on organisations to assess their gender diversity strategies, review the progress they’ve been making, and look for new ways to make a difference. Not only because equal representation is the right thing to do, but it’s also good for the economy.
Mentoring helps promote upward mobility for women within organisations
In a large survey (13,000 companies across 70 countries), the UN’s International Labour Organisation found that companies that tracked gender diversity in their management teams reported a 5-20% increase in profit as diversity increased.
This reinforces the fact that gender balance should not be seen as a human resources issue, but a vital business issue, as International Women’s Day highlights.
So how can organisations support and empower their women into leadership roles, in order to create a more equal and representative culture?
Many businesses, universities and communities have found a powerful solution in mentoring. A mentoring relationship works to support, guide, and inspire the mentee in their personal and career development.
The benefits of mentoring are well researched, with those who have mentors increasing in confidence and aspiration, as well as enhancing their communication and leadership skills. It therefore comes as no surprise that more and more organisations are implementing mentoring programmes internally for their employees.
These programmes are particularly valuable when it comes to increasing the number of women in leadership. For example, if you provide the top-performing women in your company with inspiring senior individuals to mentor them, they will have an increased level of support and encouragement at crucial stages of their careers.
This will mean they’re more likely to go for promotions, grow their personal network, and feel motivated to succeed.
A study found mentoring programmes boost promotion and retention rates for women and minorities from 15% to 38% compared to non-mentored employees. Mentoring therefore helps promote upward mobility for women within organisations, to make the traditionally treacherous journey up the career ladder far smoother.
Having more women in management also helps to attract and retain more talent, working to strengthen this pipeline.
It makes sense: if a woman cannot see equal representation in leadership roles at her company, she cannot see a place for herself. In this case, she’s more likely to leave than her male colleagues, and so the cycle continues.
Similarly, 89% of those with mentors go on to become mentors themselves, and so mentoring and increased gender diversity both work to create a more inclusive thriving workplace.
In aid of International Women’s Day, it’s also important to recognise that mentoring does not need to be the exclusive and ‘favouristic’ practice of old, but something we can all get involved with.
While formal mentoring tends to be one-to-one, there is no restriction on how many mentors a person can have, or a limit to where they can share their new-found perspectives and confidence.
A brilliant example of this is Mentor Walks, founded by Bobbi Mahlab in Sydney, where groups of aspiring women and female leaders are connected for an hour-long walk, to discuss ideas, share learnings and motivate one another.
Ultimately, mentoring is about knowledge-sharing and uplifting one another, which is essential in the fight for gender parity, perfectly voiced in this year’s #EachForEqual campaign.
About the author
Nicola Cronin is head of content at Guider