Largest Cross-Company Mentoring Scheme in the UK for Female Talent Opens for Business

More than 1,200 mentors and female mentees were invited to meet at Central Hall in Westminster to launch the largest cross company, cross sector mentoring scheme in the UK, which is now its fourth year. It is unique in bringing together different organisations and leaders to broaden the pipeline of female business talent and ‘balance the pyramid’ to increase the number of women in senior leadership and board roles. Women Ahead, a social enterprise, designs and delivers the scheme on behalf of the 30% Club. 

A high profile panel of speakers including Brenda Trenowden, 30% Club Global Chair and Head of Institutions at ANZ Europe, Helena Morrissey, 30% Club Founder and Chair of Newton Investment Management, Liz Dimmock, CEO and Founder of Women Ahead, and rugby legend and business coach Maggie Alphonsi MBE introduced the hugely successful scheme to Chairs, CEOs and leaders from more than 60 major organisations including Cisco, Mastercard, EY, Slaughter and May, Marks & Spencer, BNY Mellon and Santander.

Brenda Trenowden, Global Chair of 30% Club and Head of Financial Institutions at ANZ, Europe, said: “We are hugely encouraged by the ever-growing reach of our mentoring scheme – from a baseline of 70 participants back in 2012, the programme now boasts over 1,250 participants spread across 62 organisations. The cross-company centoring scheme has become a real cornerstone of the 30% Club’s pipeline efforts to increase the number of women at senior management level and in decision-making roles. This will have a positive impact on both corporate financial performance and corporate culture.”

Helena Morrissey CBE, 30% Club Founder said: “The popularity of the mentoring scheme shows both the desire of mid-career women to progress and the strength of determination that organisations now feel to create the right environment for them to thrive. There is wonderful unity in the goal: to develop workplaces where women feel they can be women and so in turn contribute towards better organisational culture. I am so glad the 30% Club's scheme is now reaching so many and making such a difference."

Liz Dimmock, Founder and CEO of Women Ahead said: “Mentees report on the liberating nature of a mentoring relationship outside their own company, feeling able to discuss issues without restrictions and appreciating the access to impartial advice. Mentors report that the experience has taught them more about the issues being faced by high-potential women – and has provided eye-opening insights into the issues likely being faced by women in their own organisation.

“Working with mentors from outside your own company can take you beyond your self-limiting beliefs and help you achieve excellence. Mentors on the scheme can also expect to be transformed by what they learn during the programme.”

The audience of female rising stars and some of the most influential business leaders in the country heard how the scheme intends to create a ‘village’ of networking opportunities, leveraging technology, with the ultimate objective of reaching many thousands of women. Working with mentors from outside your own company can take you beyond your self-limiting beliefs and help you achieve your potential. Mentors on the scheme can also expect to be transformed by what they learn during the programme.

The cross-company mentoring scheme develops the pipeline and parity of women in FTSE-350 leadership roles. It matches senior leaders (male and female) to mentor women from another organisation. Each participating organisation defines the pivot point at which it sees a divergence between career paths of men and women, and invites key women in this ‘danger zone’ into the mentoring scheme. Mentors are seasoned professionals (both men and women) with substantial business experience who hold leadership roles within their organisation. 

Edward Braham, a mentor who is senior partner at Freshfields said: “My mentor reeled off an incredible list of achievements. It was exciting and humbling and fired me up to do twice as well as I had done before. 

“By working with mentees you learn more about the challenges and how you can help, and then you scale them. We learn as a firm. We have 10 mentees on the programme, so that’s 10 people coming in with fresh ideas and fresh confidence coming into the firm.”

Alex Foster, Head of Insurance and Finance Sector at BT said: “When you first go to meet your mentor, it’s a luxury moment. How often do you spend time just thinking about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and where you want to go? It tests you in a really safe environment.”


Notes to Editors

MEDIA CONTACT: Timma Marett;; +44 7901 682219. 
Case studies and other interviewees also available on request – please call to discuss.


About the Cross Company Scheme

Since the launch of the Cross Company scheme in 2013, it has grown from 8 companies to 61 companies involved in 2016 (equating to more than a 600% increase). We have also seen a huge growth in the numbers of mentors and mentees involved – from 70 pairs in 2013 to 615 pairs in 2016.  The programme has more than doubled in size year-on-year and over the first four years we will have engaged just over 1,100 female mentees in a mentoring relationship (where around 300 of the mentors are also female) which has resulted in over a 750% increase in the numbers of mentors and mentees engaged.  In percentage terms, the scheme is growing incredibly rapidly (over a 1500% increase in four years).

About the 30% Club

The 30% Club is a group of Chairs and CEOs taking action to create a better balance of men and women at all levels of their organisations as a business imperative rather than a ‘women’s issue’. This is done through practical initiatives and mentoring a key part of this work.  When the 30% Club was set up in 2010, 12.5% of board members were women. In 2016 that figure rose to 26%. The 30% Club is now expanding its remit to FTSE 350 companies and to individuals on executive committees as well as company boards.

The 30% Club launched in the UK in 2010 with a goal of achieving a minimum of 30% women on FTSE-100 boards - currently the figure stands at 26% up from 12.5%. Accelerated progress has been achieved through the leadership of member Chairs and CEOs. The 30% Club believes that gender balance on boards not only encourages better leadership and governance, but diversity further contributes to better all-round board performance, and ultimately increased corporate performance for both companies and their shareholders. The 30% Club aims to develop a diverse pool of talent for all businesses through the efforts of its Chair and CEO members who are committed to better gender balance at all levels of their organisations. Business leadership is key to our mission, taking the issue beyond a specialist diversity effort and into mainstream talent management. The 30% Club approach is collaborative, business-led and aims to accelerate progress towards better gender balance at all levels of organisations. The 30% Club does not believe mandatory quotas are the right approach - instead, they support a voluntary approach in order to realise meaningful, sustainable change.

About Women Ahead

Women Ahead is a social enterprise that designs and delivers the Cross Company scheme on behalf of the 30% Club. Women Ahead supports the development of women in business and sport through mentoring schemes managed by a team of global experts that specialise in designing, implementing and evaluation world-class mentoring partnerships between and within the worlds of business and sport.

Women Ahead is an award-winning social enterprise that supports the development of women in sport and business. Founded with the belief that parity between men and women will benefit individuals, organisations and society as a whole, Women Ahead creates innovative and mutually beneficial partnerships between and within the worlds of business and sport. 

Since launch in 2014, we have worked with more than 131 organisations and supported over 3,200 mentors and mentees. Our schemes are rooted in the belief that no matter what our choice of career, we can all benefit profoundly from escaping our silos and engaging with different perspectives.