What Happens When You Mentor Talented Women?

Imagine if Serena Williams hadn’t been mentored or didn’t have training drills? Would she have won 21 Grand Slams, 6 Australian Opens, 6 US Opens, 6 Wimbledon’s be one of, if not the, best female tennis player, ever?

Imagine if Daisy Pearce, AFL Women star hadn’t turned up for training? Would she have been the AFL’s women’s inaugural No.1 draft pick in 2013,  Melbourne’s inaugural captain, best and fairest winner, and arguably the first female superstar of the AFL female game?

It’s fairly incomprehensible that these women wouldn’t go to training, be trained and mentored. So why are women not being mentored in a systematic way in our organisations,  given the right mentoring and sponsorship can unlock potential and superior performance for both the woman and the organisation that employs her?

One of the (many) barriers to women advancing in the workplace is a lack of confidence.

A major factor in overcoming confidence issues is being mentored and sponsored. Worryingly,  there a systematic lack of of mentoring and sponsorship in an organised, disciplined way in Australian organisations.

What is mentorship and sponsorship? How about I talk about what it’s not? It’s not a regular half an hour or hour with your manager to go through a laundry list of actions, decisions or tasks. That’s important for business planning. But its not career advancing. It is not a chit-chat which commences with ‘so how are you?’ That important for rapport building. But it’s not training. It’s not a one way conversation about what you should or should not be doing. I guess that’s important, to someone! But it’s not mentoring.

Mentoring is: a developmental partnership through which one person shares knowledge, skills, information, and perspective to foster the personal and professional growth of someone else. The power of mentoring is that it creates a one-of-a-kind opportunity for collaboration, goal achievement, and problem solving.

The research that has prompted this article has identified that many women (and men) are not receiving the benefit of being effectively mentored in the workplace. When I speak at an event, post articles or attend networking events, women invariably come up to me or write to me and tell me they do not have a mentor, nor do they regularly have conversations that build their strategic, business and financial acumen. Not do they know what to do about it. They know,  and I know, that this is impacting their confidence, their career and limiting them from advancing. Its disheartening for the women. For the organisations that employ these women, its foolish.  These organisations are not tapping into the productivity these women will generate when they are engaged and committed which will only come about when investment to increase their skills and advance their career is made.

My research has the primary purpose of informing me about the barriers to gender equality in leadership. Early qualitative research highlighted confidence as  a key issue for women. Deeper discussions uncovered that lack of business acumen is a contributor to women lacking confidence. Here’s what women in the workplace have told me:

  1. 53% do not receive mentoring or coaching of any kind
  2. 66% rate their people leaders coaching skills as poor or non-existent
  3. 90% say not receiving coaching, mentoring or training has a moderate to material impact on their happiness and engagement at work
  4. 40% are mildly to very dissatisfied with their career progression
  5. 64% are mildly to very dissatisfied with their people leaders approach to their career planning

This data should alarm the organizations that are serious about advancing  women.

Why? Some fundamentals which will be no surprise:

  • Mentoring and sponsorship can create a career pathway. Employers who provide support such as formal mentoring, sponsorship and career planning are more likely to increase the advancement of women and decrease the female talent drain.
  • The right training/development ends the leadership lottery for women. By actively developing and promoting inclusive leaders across your organization, you will eliminate the lottery women encounter for career progression. Middle managers determine the day-to-day experience of women in organisations. Gender equality awareness and training underpins inclusive leadership.
  • Female leadership development training helps build the skill sets women need: McKinsey has shown through interviewing 250 C-Suite women that some of the attributes they most relied upon were resilience, grit, and confidence. Quality, regular training and development can unlock and foster these attributes in women.
  • Being mentored can increase happiness & productivity. Happy workers are productive workers. Former Westpac CEO Gail Kelly has been quoted as saying “creating a happy workplace is crucial to building a culture where people are willing to go the extra mile for no extra pay because of team loyalty, professional commitment and personal satisfaction.” Discretionary effort from happy engaged people can up to 15% increase in productivity.

There are more statistics than I have had hot dinners about the benefits of an inclusive culture and the value that can be created for a company that has greater gender diversity.

My purpose in life is to support and advance women. To achieve gender equality. So when I founded Advancing Women, I knew I was being purposeful and could make a difference for women.  I know that by sharing my skills, experience and qualifications that I can accelerate the advancement of women. I know that the women I  mentor feel more confident, more accomplished, more empowered and more successful…in whatever way they define success.  I know the organisations that I work with have women that feel more engaged, valued and have a career path to aspire to. Which means both the organisation and the women who work there are better off.

Curious? Call or email Advancing Women to see how you or you organisation can benefit. 

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About Michelle Redfern

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