Formal Mentoring Programs Can Shatter Glass Ceilings for Women

by / 0 Comments / 236 View / December 1, 2016

Some recent role changes in political leaders clearly demonstrate that women continue to trend upward in leadership roles. Earlier this year, Theresa May became the second female prime minister of the United Kingdom and Hillary Clinton the first woman in U.S. history to lead the Democratic Party.

A combination of legislative and corporate diversity programs are likely to accelerate the progress that has been made to date. For example, Germany passed a law in 2015 that requires some of Europe’s biggest companies to give 30 percent of supervisory seats to women.

According to McKinsey, companies with diverse executive boards are enjoying significantly higher earnings and returns on equity. Since the workforce is still male dominated, women still struggle to progress to the C-level suite.

Companies leading the front line in leadership development are trending toward formal mentoring programs as an effective way to overcome this challenge.

Developing Women Leaders – Why Mentoring Is Working
Mentoring is more than attending various leadership training courses; it’s about building trusted, long-term relationships that help an individual move up the corporate career ladder.

Here are some examples why mentoring is an effective leadership-development strategy for women.

A mentor can:

1. Help an individual understand the company culture and how to navigate through the politics.
2. Open their network that possibly includes influencers within the organization.
3. Share leadership experiences throughout their career.
4. Make their mentee more visible within the organization.
5. Mentor on specific leadership skills and competencies.
6. Provide trusted feedback on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What is Different in a Mentoring Program that Focuses on Women in Leadership?
Mentoring programs, when well planned and executed, have a lot of similar elements.

But the differences for this type of program, where the focus is supporting women in leadership, are deciding who should be part of the program, the criteria they are then matched on, and finally the support information provided to these participants at every stage of their mentorship.

“We have helped many organizations over the years with mentoring programs for women,” Judy Corner, subject matter expert with Insala, said. “What we have found is the program works best when females are matched with male mentors in leadership roles. This is because there are normally more male executive mentors to choose from, and they tend to have a bigger network of influencers to share. All other activities normally remain the same if the objective of the program is leadership development. ”

New Ways to Match Your Mentees
Using mentoring technology is now more often playing a part in the success of this type of mentoring initiative. With technology, the mentee can choose their mentor rather than being assigned a specific individual.

Statistics show that if the mentee chooses their mentor, the relationship is much more successful. Previously, mentees were more likely to be assigned a mentor chosen by their manager or program administrator.

Technology allows the mentee to select from a list of qualified and available mentors through the review of mentor profiles. These mentors should be willing and able to provide mentoring on specific skills and competencies that the mentee has requested for development.

Steps to Success for Mentoring Programs for Women
Mentoring programs can fail if the rights steps aren’t taken. Here are my seven tips to launching a program to ensure success.

1. Define short-term success based on your organizational leadership focus – Any type of leadership program is a long-term business strategy; it can take years for employees to move upward, so short-term success should be the focus.

How are you going to measure it? An example is would be to total how many women have developed a leadership competency in the last six months.

2. Qualify mentors – This is critical. The quality of your mentors will determine the success of the program.

What are the qualities and competencies mentors need to be successful in the role of mentor for this type of program? Career level, company experience, and leadership competences that are important to the organization are some examples.

3. Identify participating mentees – These should be your high-potential female employees that show leadership qualities.

4. Create a communication plan – The communication plan should explain the benefits for the organization and the benefits for the individuals participating. It should not be seen as an exclusive initiative.

5. Training – Not everyone has previously participated in a mentoring program. The training needs to define what mentoring means for the organization and how to implement the role of mentor and mentee.

6. Matching – The first step for matching is determining on what criteria participants will be paired. This includes all leadership competencies, location, career level, and gender.

The next step is to launch a matching portal that allows mentors and mentees to enroll in the program and be matched.

7. Reporting – Reports should include such elements as how many partnerships were created, specific improvement in competencies, goals/objectives completed, number of individuals who were able to move into more complex assignments, etc.

It is important to measure and report both “quantitative” and “qualitative” data.

The Future Trends for Women in Leadership
Men and women will need to continue to work together for more women to be in leadership roles, and mentoring is one way that facilitates these types of partnerships.

Turning a mentoring program into a business strategy that includes setting business objectives, careful planning, and introducing a portal to allow mentees to choose their preferred mentor will ensure more women in leadership. BW

Stephen Grindrod is the manager director of career services at Insala, a leading global provider of talent-development software and consulting. He has seen numerous challenges that organizations face when implementing a mentoring online solution and has assisted Insala in creating a mentoring software solution that works for all types of organizations. www.insala.com

Judy Corner has over 29 years of experience providing customized human-resources consulting services to medium to large organizations, specifically in the area of mentoring. During the last 24 years, she has designed and delivered mentoring workshops, mentor and mentee training, and a complete mentoring methodology: Hi-Impact Mentoring®.

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