How Mentoring Can Elevate Women in the Workplace
While gender parity is not a new term, the urgency to reach a more balanced gender ratio in the workplace has reached a boiling point in our world today. Women make up 48 percent of the workforce population, but their representation dwindles to 29 percent by vice president level and a mere 21 percent by the C-suite level.
Increasing gender diversity in the workplace isn’t just about fairness. It’s actually better business acumen. Research out of Carnegie Mellon found that once women make up more than 50 percent of a team, the team’s collective intelligence rises above average — increasing the propensity for better decision making and innovation.
Even more persuasive, a survey from Petersen Institute for International Economics found that going from no women in C-suite positions to 30 percent female representation raised profitability 15 percent for a typical firm.
These facts illustrate a huge opportunity for women employees to be an even greater strength for their organizations, if only they are connected to the people and resources needed to succeed to the next level.
How Can Companies Improve Gender Parity?
To elevate women in the workplace, organizations must take active measures. Women employees are still 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts. This is often because they lack the access to the senior leaders, career advice, and resources needed to rise to the next level.
Of Fortune 500 companies, 71 percent offer mentoring to employees in order to tackle development challenges. Mentoring programs have been shown to improve employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. One study found mentoring increased the number of minority women in management by 18-24 percent over five years.
With mentoring, women employees can interact with peers and senior leaders who can provide them the skills and knowledge to increase competencies for promotion or organizational change.
But great mentoring programs don’t just happen. They are built upon thoughtful planning and sustained commitment to guiding participants through the mentoring process while continually improving the program.
Here are five key steps when starting a mentoring program to support women in the workplace.
Design your mentoring program. When starting an impactful mentoring program, always start with the why. Understand the intended purpose of your program. Are you aspiring to increase the number of women in leadership positions; to increase the general retention of women in your company; or to provide peer support to women?
Identifying your goal helps you understand who in the organization will be targeted for participation and how you will measure success. These objectives provide direction for a mentoring program and will help you establish which metrics you’ll want to track to monitor progress toward your goal.
Once you’ve established your goals, you’ll use them to make other key design decisions, including:
• Enrollment – open for all, application required, or invitation only
• Mentoring format – traditional one-on-one, group, flash mentoring, or mentoring circles
• Mentorship duration – weeks, months, or single session
Next, construct a workflow diagram that will help you keep track of the progression of your program and which aspects will require additional resources, flexibility, or configuration.
Attract mentoring participants. Without participants, your mentoring program doesn’t exist. Make sure to focus on marketing your program and recruiting mentors and mentees.
Employees should understand the mentoring program’s goals and how it can improve their careers. Make sure you lay out the benefits to both mentors and mentees. Key leaders and stakeholders will also need to be educated on the benefits of the program and its strategic value to the organization.
Consider your target mentors and mentees and market the program to them through the organizational communication channels they use most, e.g., intranet, company list serv, flyers, etc. Don’t forget recognition and reward strategies. Formally recognizing mentor involvement can be very motivating and help attract additional mentors to the program.
Connect mentors and mentees. Productive mentoring depends on a good match. Participants will bring different competencies, tenure, and organizational knowledge to the program. You’ll want to match mentors and mentees based on the objectives of the program and the qualities important to them. Matching best practices starts with a solid profile for each participant.
Critical profile elements include:
• Mentee developmental goals and mentor competencies
• Topical interests
Decide what type of matching will fit your mentoring program: self-matching, admin matching, or a hybrid model. This will be dependent on the format and objective of the program, as well as the preferences of your employee population.
Self-matching gives mentees a say in the matching process by allowing them to select a particular mentor or submit their top three choices, while admin match might be right if you want to match female leaders with younger female employees or new female employees with other women in the organization.
Guide mentoring relationships. Left to themselves, many mentorships will take off and thrive. But some may not. Why? Because typically, mentoring is not an inherent skill or part of one’s daily routine.
To ensure mentor and mentee progression through the relationship, you’ll want to provide guidance. Educating them on how to conduct meetings, give constructive feedback, and stay on track with individual goals will provide guidelines for the pairs to follow as the mentorship grows. Offering training and resources to help your participants will keep mentorships productive and your program successful long term.
Measure your mentoring program impact. Articulating your mentoring program’s impact is essential to secure ongoing funding, support, and prioritization. To do so, you need to measure the right metrics. Mentoring programs should be tracked, measured, and assessed at three altitudes: the program, the mentoring connection, and the individual.
If you’re aiming for increased retention, you’ll want to track participant retention compared to non-participating employees. If you’re working to increase women in leadership roles, you’ll want to keep an eye on job band growth or position change within the company.
And overall, you’ll want to keep a pulse on whether your mentors and mentees are engaging effectively. Tracking and measuring the progress of your program will allow you to prove impact to senior leaders, as well as monitor any kinks that need to be worked out.
Mentoring is a proven strategy to help people learn, network, and develop skills. It’s no surprise that organizations turn to mentoring to move the needle on gender diversity.
Grooming women for management roles and career advancement brings diverse perspectives to the strategic vision and direction of an organization. Properly supporting their development and advancement helps propel organizations into a stronger foothold within innovation and their leadership pipeline, providing a distinct competitive advantage. BW
Amanda Schnieders is a marketing specialist for Chronus. As a believer in the innovative capabilities of the modern workplace, Schnieders focuses on the ways and processes by which mentoring can change employee productivity and enable personal growth in an organization.www.chronus.com