The 30% Club tackles female executive progress with successful mentoring pilot

Official scheme launch in September 2014

A 30% Club cross-company mentoring scheme that launched as a pilot in 2013 has been successfully completed, leading to the first official cohort for the mentoring programme being welcomed in autumn of this year.

Part of a series of 30% Club initiatives aimed at ‘Balancing the Pyramid’, helping develop a broader pipeline of women throughout organisations, the scheme was intended to enable talented women to benefit from cross-company mentoring – an opportunity that until now has been reserved for senior executives. This approach brings the potential to make a step change to the number of women attaining senior leadership roles in their respective companies.

The pilot scheme, aimed at mid-career women, was developed in conjunction with EY and spearheaded by Joanna Santinon, an Ernst & Young Tax Partner and a member of the 30% Club’s Steering Committee. The formal programme will now launch in September 2014, with the aim of addressing the issue of scalability in mentoring, taking the first step in creating a ‘village’ of networking opportunities and leveraging technology with the ultimate objective of reaching hundreds rather than tens of women as is the case currently.

Helena Morrissey CBE, Founder of the 30% Club and CEO of Newton Investment Management, said: “Each organisation participating in the mentoring pilot defined the pivot point for their organisations at which they see a divergence between career paths of men and women, inviting key women in this group to participate. Feedback was hugely positive, but also proved that work still needs to be done. Concerted efforts to tackle female executive progress will ensure that we get more women not just into business, but staying in business and reaching the top. Only then will we achieve meaningful and sustainable change.”

A survey undertaken post the end of the pilot scheme saw 95% of mentee respondents having seen a marked improvement in their development areas, with 86% believing it had increased their confidence as a leader.

“My confidence and belief in my abilities has increased as a result of the pilot,” explained one mentee. All of the participants said they would recommend the scheme to others, with a key benefit cited being the cross-company element of the programme: “Having the opportunity to be mentored by someone external to my company and from a different industry has been a great experience,” “[It] helped me get a perspective on my organisation – sometimes you can get caught up in the internal culture and forget to sense check what happens in the bigger outside world,” added others.

Joanna Santinon commented: “The feedback from the pilot programme has been fantastic and reinforces the power and value of mentoring to help boost the career potential of top female talent. EY are extremely proud to be working with the 30% Club on this flagship project and we are confident that through quality coaching, sponsorship and support, it will make a tangible difference to the talent pipelines of corporate Britain.”

The mentoring scheme will include mentors and mentees from companies including BAT, BDO, EY, Centrica, Freshfields, GE, Marks & Spencer, Nomura, Pearson, Slaughter & May and BNY Mellon*. Other initiatives include 30% Club scholarships at leading Business Schools, the latest being at Oxford’s Said Business School – The EMBA Scholarship for Women offered in association with the 30% Club was launched earlier this month.

Victoria Sigeti, Senior Associate Corporate at Freshfields and a mentee on the pilot, said: “I thought this would be a unique opportunity to get that different perspective you get from having a mentor outside of the organisation. I’m really happy with the progress we have made, and the resulting transformation to my approach to challenges and opportunities. It’s exceeded all my expectations.”

The scheme will run from September to June every year, with the matching of mentors and mentees facilitated by an online system with input and oversight from the scheme manager. Mentors and mentees are paired appropriately according to key criteria (geographic location, professional experience, competencies, sector, interests), and designed to eliminate conflicts of interest, confidentiality issues etc.