Mentoring is a commonly used tool to address gender diversity. In this blog we will show you various ways mentoring can be used to progress diversity and improve inclusion and belonging.
The majority of organisations in the UK have a gender pay gap, generally caused by insufficient women in senior leadership positions. Achieving gender diversity involves having greater balance of genders throughout an organisation, including senior levels. Gender-diverse teams are more likely to perform better than ones that have a predominance of one gender.
Creating gender-diverse teams involves addressing gender imbalances within various functions and levels of an organisation overtime, as well as supporting more women to progress to senior leadership positions.
Mentoring is a supportive learning relationship between a caring individual who shares knowledge, experience and wisdom with another individual who is ready and willing to benefit from this exchange, to enrich their professional journey.
Here, we share six ways mentoring can be used for a positive impact as part of a broader gender diversity strategy:
1. Mentoring high potential, future leaders
Main aim: To impart wisdom and experience from senior leaders to high potential, future leaders as part of their leadership development.
Identifying future talent is an art form and forward-thinking organisations will regularly identify those individuals who demonstrate potential for future development and succession planning. Having a mentoring programme in place for high potentials can help an organisation manage the gender balance of mentees and mentors as well as focusing on creating positive, high-quality relationships with a developmental focus. Over time, the success of the mentoring initiative can be monitored through readiness, promotions and progression.
2. Mentoring within specific under-represented functions
Main aim: To impart wisdom and experience from gender diversity ambassador to women working within a male-dominated function/profession or men working within a female-dominated function/profession.
Creating a mentoring programme as part of positive action to increase the number of men or women in a specifically under-represented part of your organisation can be effective with well-chosen and trained mentors. The mentoring programme can be designed as part of a recruitment and training campaign focused on addressing gender diversity as a way of supporting greater inclusion.
3. Mentoring during early careers
Main aim: To impart wisdom and experience from established professionals to those in the early stages of their career.
Many organisations are making great progress on gender diversity through early careers hiring. Supporting new hires through their initial years of their career is important and mentoring may play a helpful role here, again with well-chosen and trained mentors who are able to carefully manage the intricacies of the current organisational reality with the future landscape.
4. Mentoring for new parents
Main aim: To impart wisdom and experience from experienced working parents to a new parent focused on successfully combining parenting with work responsibilities and career development.
Some organisations have introduced mentoring programmes to support new parents returning to work after parent-related leave. Whilst we favour external coaching for new parents and in-house buddy relationships to ease smooth transitions, mentoring can play an important role, especially as part of a specific retention strategy.
5. Mentoring for employee network leaders
Main aim: To impart support and experience from senior leaders to network leaders to successfully navigate their cross-organisational networks.
Employee networks can play a significant role in helping organisations to become more inclusive and shifting the gender balance. Offering mentoring to individuals who have stepped up, usually voluntarily, to lead these networks and initiatives through mentoring can be helpful as they are likely to be working across organisational boundaries and potentially coming up against resistance to change.
6. Reverse mentoring for senior leaders
Main aim: To impart wisdom and experience from junior team members to senior leaders to aid empathy and understanding of different demographics, especially useful if there are limited demographics amongst the senior leadership team.
Reverse mentoring, whereby a more senior, experienced leader is mentored by a junior team member is increasing in popularity as part of cultural change initiatives. This type of relationship can greatly aid the senior leader’s understanding and perception of a broader landscape outside their general everyday experience, possibly relating, but not limited to technology and human diversity.
It can also be helpful to have mentoring relationships with a mentor or mentee outside your organisation to gain additional insights and experiences that can’t be gained within your organisation. These can be organised as a cross-industry initiative, part of a larger programme or stand-alone relationship.
For mentoring programmes to work, we believe there are some specific conditions to meet:
- Mentors receive training in mentorship skills, such as listening, questioning, advising and contracting as well as committed to championing gender diversity
- All participants briefed about the mentoring relationship and given guidance as to how the relationship is expected to work
- Mentors and mentees are carefully matched with the focus on being mutually beneficial for each participant’s development
- Specific purpose, outcomes and measurables set for the programme with regular reviews
- Clear boundaries, supervision and safeguarding established for all participants.
CM Talent are gender diversity experts working nationally, based in the West Midlands. We help employers attract, retain and develop gender-diverse teams.
Contact us if you would like to discuss how we can help you establish and embed mentoring programmes within your organisation, from programme design, training for participants and supervision. We also have experience of directly mentoring HR professionals.