How mentoring delivers leadership diversity

If you plan to be a leading organisation in 2017 with diversity of thinking at the executive level and a strong pipeline for growth, now is the time to implement change to make it happen.

The research is clear. The business case has been made. Yet according to the latest research by EY Australia, only 20% of companies reviewed have set up structured programs to increase numbers of women at the top.

Mentoring is one of the strategies that can change the figures and drive cultural change. Effective programs successfully retain and develop talented aspiring female leaders.

For example, 67% of women in a formal mentoring program at a top tier law firm were promoted to partner. 63% at an ASX listed company on a gender diversity mentoring program for senior women were promoted.[1] While the NRL has seen a substantial shift in numbers of female staff and team executives through its mentoring initiatives.

The latest Harvard Business Review report on programs to boost diversity in the workplace also sites mentoring as one of the top initiatives that can strengthen the pipeline. It says the programs that work don’t ‘teach or train’ but engage. They get active involvement from the top and encourage social accountability to be part of the solution.

Mentoring works because it allows emerging leaders to test ideas, gain fresh perspectives and seek experienced counsel on leadership, career and performance.  It helps promote women by boosting confidence, exposing emerging talented to senior executives and encouraging them to take risks with their careers and responsibility for their own progression.

Jetstar’s Chief Pilot Captain Georgina Sutton – only the second female chief pilot in the world – was selected for a mentoring program in her role as a senior Qantas Captain and says her mentor was invaluable in increasing her confidence and providing honest, candid advice to help her progress. She now strongly advocates the support of programs for women to enter leadership, particularly if they haven’t envisaged it for themselves.

Another senior manager on our program agreed, “mentoring gave me the courage and confidence to challenge the status quo and take risks and achieve beyond my wildest dreams”

They are not alone. Many business leaders, including our female mentors now sitting on some of Australia’s top company’s executive and board tables, advocate the value of mentoring to get ahead.

For maximum impact, a structured program with careful planning, good design and clarity of purpose is recommended.

In our experience, the program should be positioned as an initiative to support talented female participants. It should be championed from the top, matches carefully considered and clear parameters set to encourage engagement and commitment.

Formally connecting the mentee/mentor can also be an important part of its success. Women are statistically less inclined to approach potential mentors on their own and the recent Harvard Business Review’s research report suggests male executives feel uncomfortable reaching out informally to young women, yet are eager to mentor formally assigned protégés, whoever they may be.

In addition, connecting select women with experienced mentors within a program not only demonstrates the value the organisation places on them but validates the importance of focusing on their own career progression. It also creates a professional relationship that adds accountability and the required commitment to learn and grow.

Of course, other factors such as sponsorship, cultural change, increased flexibility and unconscious bias are all important parts of long term change.

Mentoring is certainly not the only solution but it can be an effective, cost-effective piece of the puzzle. It’s great to see all the discussions taking place but the figures make it clear we need to take action and implement the right initiatives to make it happen.

Don’t just hope it happens organically. It won’t.

 1] Results from McCarthy Mentoring Emerging Leader 12 month programs

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Mentoring helping NRL increase numbers of senior women

Senior women in the National Rugby League are mentoring young women within the game to aspire and support them in their career progression. 25% of staff at clubs are now female and most clubs have a female on their executive team.

A mentoring program established by departing NRL chief operating officer Suzanne Young was developed to see those numbers increase.

Speaking about the mentoring program’s graduation event, Canterbury chief executive Raelene Castle said “the stories from young women about the experience that they have gained from having someone who could help them navigate some really challenging situations, like what their next career step would be or how to go about it, were great. Some people have made some monumental career changes off the back of that mentoring program.”

Read the full article here – SMH, 8 March 2016, “With 25 per cent of staff at clubs now female, Raelene Castle says the NRL should celebrate women”

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Follow the leader to success – Weekend Australian

McCarthy Mentoring’s Executive Director, Sophie McCarthy, alongside 2015 scholarship winner CEO, Sue Andrews and mentor, Marg O’Donnell AO are interviewed by the Weekend Australian on the value of mentoring, tips to get the most out of it and pitfalls to avoid.

Follow the leader to success by Verity Edwards, The Australian, 20 February 2016

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Your gender diversity strategy

external mentoring

The latest findings by Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) show not much has changed with gender pay gap and leadership figures. They show women are earning 24% less than men in total remuneration for full time work. That represents $27,252 per year. It’s 35% if you work in financial or insurance services.

In terms of leadership, the data continues to paint a bleak picture – only 15.4% of CEOs are women.

The challenges of gender diversity within organisations can be broad and complex. The discussions are around quotas; culture; persistent bias; women’s lack of confidence in pay negotiations; reluctance to ask for promotions; lack of flexibility at the top (just 6.3% of management roles are part-time) and leaders who aren’t supporting women into the top jobs.

Yet there is a strong business case for gender diversity at senior levels and in positive news, there has been an increase in employers who have put strategies in place.  

What part does mentoring play in your gender diversity strategy?

Our experience and the research shows mentoring can be an important part of a successful gender diversity strategy.

WEGA has cited mentoring and sponsorship programs within its ‘Strategy Toolkit’ that provides advice to businesses wanting to achieve gender equality. Mentoring is seen as an important initiative in both building capability and developing a strong talent ‘pipeline to leadership’ that is gender diverse.

In addition, McKinsey (2010) found that organisations with the largest percentage of C-level women encourage or mandate senior executives to mentor women in lower-level jobs.

For the individual, we know that common outcomes of mentoring – such as increased confidence, performance, leadership skills, more strategic career plans as well as ability to take risks in their career – can all impact on career progression.

Recent outcomes from McCarthy Mentoring programs designed to support gender diversity strategies:

  • 63% of emerging female leaders selected to participate at a large ASX listed company were promoted during the program or within a year of participating
  • 67% of female participants at a global professional services firm were promoted to Partner since starting the program

Mentoring can be a powerful initiative to strengthen your gender diversity strategy.


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New initiative to support female museum leaders

McCarthy Mentoring is proud to have launched a new program to support 21 inspirational senior women become the next generation of leaders in our cultural institutions. Mentors of the inaugural Council of Australasian Museum Directors’ Executive Mentoring Program are some of the most well respected and experienced leaders in the sector.

The launch brought together the 21 mentees with Directors of Australian Museums participating in the program and included a stimulating and inspiring panel session with:

  • Rose Hiscock, Director, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
  • Kim McKay AO, Director and CEO, Australian Museum
  • Professor Suzanne Miller, Director and CEO, Queensland Museum Network

The three Directors candidly shared stories about their careers, aspirations and challenges they had faced on their path to leadership. Each gave valuable advice, guidance and insights on having a successful career in the cultural sector.

See full details and list of participants here

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