Diversity and Inclusion

5 Mentoring Lessons From Influential Women

As Women’s History Month continues, women across the world and the various spaces they impact have continued to show a commitment to breaking the bias of gender equality.

On International Women’s Day, women in various organizations reflected on the many ways gender inequality shows up in the workplace. One thing is clear, women require more than panels and social media posts. They require actual support to get ahead and systemic change to level the playing field.

One way to support women is through impactful mentoring. A study found that 87 percent of mentors and mentees feel empowered by the relationship and reported greater confidence and career satisfaction. And, it turns out that mentees and mentors are both promoted far more often (5 times and 6 times, respectively) than those employees without mentors. (Source)

Influential women speak on mentoring

Viola Davis

Award winning actress Viola Davis had this to say about Meryl Streep being a mentor –

“Meryl does it all the time. She [gives lessons in confidence] all the time. I think she does it in a way that she doesn’t even understand or think she’s doing it. You know, she just sent me an email, and I was like, ‘That’s perfect.’ She was like, ‘Yes, Viola, now that you’ve just had your vow renewal … this is the best part of your life now. There’s not anything that you don’t know anymore in terms of what’s good and bad out there, so now you can just fly.’ She’s always imparting wisdom like that.” (Source)

Ana Corrales

A business leader and the Chief Operating Officer for Google’s Consumer Hardware business, Ana Corrales also oversees the Google Store and she had this to say about how mentorship helps women in the workplace –

“At 21, I wish I had known that sometimes bending the rules is absolutely necessary to making the exceptional happen….. I’ve met young girls and women who didn’t even consider that they could do a job like mine. This might be because it’s different than what their parents do/expect of them or because it just generally feels inaccessible or intimidating. We need to change that by highlighting the opportunity, and helping continue to develop women once they’re in the field.” (Source)

Jane Fonda

Award-winning American Actress Jane Fonda had this to say about mentoring –

“I think the best advice a mentor could have given me was, ‘Jane, you know you can say no if the script isn’t good.’ I was just so surprised anybody ever wanted me in anything! I didn’t pay enough attention. 

I think the only actor who ever taught me much about life, more than acting, was Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond. Even though I did the movie for my dad, I produced it, who I learned from was Hepburn. I was 45 when I made that movie, and it was she who taught me to be self-conscious. I used to think that was a bad thing, but that means being conscious of the self you project to the public; having a persona, a style, a presence. 

I had none of that. I didn’t know how to dress! When I went onstage for my father at the Oscars, because he was too sick, I couldn’t believe how I looked and how I was dressed. I never paid attention. Hepburn taught me to pay attention and that style is important.” (Source)

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Gale Wichmann

The director of resource and development at Amyris (leaders in synthetic biology), Gale speaks about how mentoring can help bridge the confidence gap –

“I’ll never forget the advice I got from a female mentor who really dedicated herself to helping women at early stages in their careers. It goes to the confidence gap. She said whenever you get a new job, raise, or promotion, look at the comp sheet, say ‘Thank you, that’s nice,’ and then push it back and say, ‘I’m worth more.’ I was shocked that anyone could even think to do that. 

Most women would never dream to do that, and men do it all the time…. This can be hard and scary at first, but after the first few times, you’ll learn that you’re just as qualified as your male peer and can take on challenges without being ‘perfectly prepared’ for them. The good news is that confidence can be learned, and the same studies show that women do get more confident in their jobs as they get more experience, so start early.” (Source)

Kate Huyett

Chief marketing officer at Bombas, Kate speaks about the importance of developing relations with junior and senior colleagues –

“You’re not in it alone! Invest in relationships with peers as well as those more senior and junior to you. I’ve been really conscious about this and as a result, now have a wide—and ever-growing—network of individuals that I can learn from and rely on. 

Over time, they’ve successfully secured a variety of different roles across industries. You don’t have to build this network through networking events—these relationships can be built one-on-one or in small groups as well.

I’m excited to see more women in leadership and the diversity of approaches they bring—we all come from different walks of life and all have something valuable to bring to the table.” (Source)

‍As the month progresses, if you are part of an organization interested in starting, expanding or structuring a mentoring program, you can download our ‘Facilitating Female Leadership Ebook’ below:

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Benefits of Mentoring 

Why Every Organisation Needs a ‘Head of Mentoring’

You’d be stretched to find somebody who doesn’t recognise that mentoring is valuable.

The importance of mentoring has been widely documented; from celebrity autobiographies to business books, we’re reminded of the benefits mentoring can have for personal and career development.

These benefits don’t only apply to the individuals involved, but to the businesses they work in too. Positively impacting employee engagement, retention, diverse representation in leadership, company culture and more, mentoring is a powerful practice for organisations.

Yet time and time again we see mentoring not being given the dedicated time, resources, and ownership it needs to provide this impact at scale within businesses.

This article will outline the business need for a Head of Mentoring role, and demonstrate the immediate value this person could deliver within their organisation.

Find out more about embedding mentoring in your HR initiatives with Guider

But first to expand on the 3 observations that inspired this idea:

1. There’s no obvious home for mentoring in an organisation

Nobody is quite sure where mentoring sits within a business.

For something so people-centric, with the potential to impact every team and department, it surprisingly lacks clear ownership. In many organisations, mentoring is recognised as a part of their Learning & Development strategy. For others, mentoring sits within their HR functions. More commonly, mentoring is playing a key role in Diversity and Inclusion.

While these are the departments most often managing mentoring, it typically forms an additional part of a role – something someone takes up alongside their day job.

2. Mentoring rarely has a dedicated budget

Due to this lack of clear ownership, an issue that the program managers face, is their lack of budget. We’ve found in 80-90% of cases, L&D teams won’t have a budget specifically for mentoring.

If for example, a Learning & Development professional is managing their organisation’s mentoring program, they will likely have a L&D budget for schemes covering a wide scope. Mentoring can naturally fit into this scope, but rarely has its own dedicated budget. Depending on other objectives and goals, it can get de-prioritised, or runs on such a low budget that it’s near impossible to scale.

This issue of budget also varies across departments. If Finance decides to run their own internal mentoring initiative to share knowledge between generations, they might have a different budget allocation to a different department, leading mentoring to become even more siloed and inconsistent across a business.

3. It is happening, but it can’t scale (because of 1 and 2)

It’s important to acknowledge that mentoring is not new for the majority of businesses, and is often already taking place in some form. So it’s not that mentoring can’t happen without this Head of Mentoring role we’re suggesting, but it is that it can’t scale.

Without dedicated ownership, resources or budget, program managers will struggle to roll mentoring out as a widespread initiative across the organisation. This results in small, tailored programs which only run for a short period of time, and only benefit an exclusive group. For the same reasons, these programs struggle to deliver impactful results and metrics, which prevent wider roll-out. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

If organisations want to feel the true value and ROI of mentoring across the entire business, they need to stop expecting someone in the HR team to manage it on the side. They need to create a role for a Head of Mentoring.

From working with many organisations at Guider, we’ve spoken to a number of people currently managing mentoring within their business, frustrated with not being able to do as much as they’d like to. This is a common theme:

“I’m the only person responsible for a 200 person mentoring scheme, which I run manually alongside the rest of my job. We have hundreds more employees who would benefit from mentoring, but there’s only one of me and I’m at full capacity”.

If that resonates with you, I hope this piece inspires some thoughtful conversations in your organisation…

a woman stands before a group leading a meeting.

The Head of Mentoring Role

The Head of Mentoring owns mentoring across an entire organisation, including:

  • Developing, delivering and scaling specific program
  • Managing mentoring budget
  • Creating a good mentor and mentee experience
  • Developing innovative mentoring strategies to drive growth
  • Forming mentoring partnerships
  • Driving a culture of mentoring at an organisational level

Of course, other people are still involved with mentoring and the running of specific programs, but the Head of Mentoring facilitates and unites these across the organisation.

This role goes beyond simply the running of programs (although that’s a huge job in itself), and looks at mentoring as an innovative business growth strategy.

Here’s how:

1. Driving innovation

A crucial part of the Head of Mentoring’s role is aligning with the wider business objectives and vision, and harnessing mentoring as an innovative tool to drive growth and success.

So often mentoring is reduced to an HR function because it’s all about people, yet a mentoring culture has the power to affect productivity, retention, loyalty – even revenue. The Head of Mentoring can develop external partnerships with networks, or cross-company programs with other organisations – facilitating strategic relationships which benefit not only employees, but the business as a whole.

Across most organisations, mentoring program managers are responsible for:

  • Program development
  • Program promotion
  • Participant recruitment and training
  • Metric tracking
  • Proving impact / ROI

This alone is a huge amount of work, but it’s predominantly operational work: planning, logistics, ensuring the mentoring relationships are happening etc. What the Head of Mentoring does, is take this role beyond logistics. Elevating the need for mentoring at a senior level, understanding what the business needs, and coming up with innovative ways of using mentoring to get there.

2. Dedicated Ownership

The Head of Mentoring solves the lack of ownership issues.

Mentoring should not be seen as merely a function of Learning and Development, but as a cultural staple of a business. The effects of mentoring are felt far beyond a set team or department, and the way it operates in a company should reflect that.

We have spoken with current program managers about the desire to “do more” with mentoring in their organisation, yet they lack the capacity, authority, or budget. Paired with the fact this is typically being done alongside their day to day role, it’s no surprise they can’t take mentoring to the next level. Having a full-time Head of Mentoring removes the ambiguity from where mentoring ‘sits’, and provides the individual with the power to scale mentoring more widely.

For current Program Managers who can relate to these challenges, make a note of the mentoring growth opportunities you’ve identified but weren’t able to act on, or the business areas mentoring could add more value if you only had more capacity. When put together, this will showcase an abundance of missed opportunity and highlight the need for this role.

Another common reason mentoring fails to scale is not having leadership buy in. The Head of Mentoring, particularly being a senior role, addresses this issue. As with many things in business, behaviour filters down from the top. Mentoring programs are successful when senior leaders are advocating for and involved in them. Part of the necessity for a Head of Mentoring is to ensure this advocacy exists across the highest levels of the business. Where a HR Manager responsible for a graduate program might not be able to approach C-Suite, the Head of Mentoring can.

3. Breaking down silos

Typically, mentoring is very siloed, with multiple departments running their own programs with no clear way to share the learnings or impact across the wider business.

Suzie King, the mentoring program manager at M&S, said: “before using Guider, we used to have a very ad-hoc mentoring system – somebody would ask their line manager for a mentor, and a mentor would be found, but you were still in your siloed area”.

The Head of Mentoring exists to ensure the benefits of mentoring are being felt throughout the business across all groups, and therefore works to unite the organisation’s mentoring efforts.

This works on two levels:

  • Employees equally benefit from mentoring, creating a more inclusive work environment
  • There’s a consistent structure in place to run a program, meaning more mentoring can happen more easily

For any department, team, network, or group wanting a mentoring program – they now have a dedicated person to go to. This not only prevents silos forming, but also means there are set processes and strategies in place for how mentoring is done across the organisation. Rather than it taking a department 6 weeks of work from scratch, a program could be launched in a matter of days.

The Head of Mentoring creates this process for running a program to be scalable and repeatable, meaning that mentoring can impact more areas across the business.

The Missing Piece

If businesses want to scale mentoring successfully, and make it an integral part of their company – it cannot be done on the side of a full time role. Organisations are actually losing out on the full possibilities of mentoring by not creating a dedicated role for it.

A Head of Mentoring is therefore essential for any business who wants to truly see the value of mentoring across the whole organisation, not just among small groups. It solves the issues of lack of ownership, lack of budget, and siloed workforces, while creating innovative growth opportunities beyond an HR function.

At Guider we always want to talk mentoring. Hear from some of the businesses we currently support here, or book a chat with us.

Advice for Businesses

How Mentoring Software Works

In an earlier article, we defined mentoring software as a technology platform that facilitates the organisation and management of effective mentoring programs, including matching mentors & mentees, scheduling sessions and tracking progress.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of mentoring software, you can read our article explaining what mentoring software is to learn more.

The demand for mentoring software is growing across the world as many organisations discover that having mentoring programs is no longer just the reserve of legacy organisations. On top of this, the great resignation has not abated, meaning that talent churn is a key problem for organisations of any size. With 77% of people aged 25-34 looking to change roles in 2022, more and more organisations are looking for ways to retain top talent.

Providing mentorship opportunities is a great way to do just that. However, to build a mentoring program at scale that supports mentorship for your entire company, you’ll need some help! An excel sheet may work for the first 20 matches, but as the number of participants increases, the need for mentoring software is made more apparent.

But how does mentoring software work?

Mentoring software features

First let’s look at the key features of mentoring software in detail. There are a few things you want from mentoring software, these are:

  • A database for mentors and mentees
  • Matching mentors to mentees
  • Integrated session booking
  • Goal setting and tracking
  • Relationship management
  • Reporting and Measuring

Find out more about how Guider’s mentoring software works on our how it works page! 

A breakdown of mentoring software features

Mentor-mentee database

As the number of mentors and mentees grows in an organisation, mentoring software provides an easily accessible platform, where mentors can sign up to offer guidance and mentees can sign up to choose mentors. The best mentoring software makes this a really great experience by integrating with each organisation’s employee management system, so sign-on becomes a seamless one-click affair.

Matching mentors and mentees

Instead of manually matching mentors to mentees using an excel sheet, mentoring software automates the process saving organisations valuable time. Guider’s mentoring software, for example, allows mentees to upload the skill sets they would like to improve on. It then matches them with a list of mentors who are experienced in those skills. Our AI matching removes bias and helps create better mentorships.

Plus, mentors are not forced on mentees. They get to scroll through a customised list, read through profiles and then make an informed choice for themselves when they find a suitable mentor match. This is one of the key features of mentoring software that makes mentorship thrive in your organisation.

Integrated session booking

The most vital part of any mentoring program is the actual mentoring sessions. With mentors and mentees in the same geographical location, this might be as easy as popping into an office and having a sit-down. However, for global organisations and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, it has not been so easy. Enter mentoring software.

With software like Guider, it is possible to book a mentoring session through the platform. Integrating with virtual meeting software like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google calendar, which means mentoring sessions can be booked across time zones and continents easily. This eliminates the issues of availability and distance.

Goal setting and tracking

A mentorship happens between two individuals and that can be difficult to track. Particularly if clear goals are not set. When organisations use mentoring software, each mentorship has a dashboard, where the goals of the relationship can be set and tracked. This helps with accountability and effectiveness in the relationship and also helps programs leads to keep an overview of the success of the program without interfering in the relationships.

Relationship management

Closely linked with goal setting, relationship management is the process of managing each mentorship within a mentoring program. Using mentoring software ensures that you do not just have people signed up for mentoring but not actively participating in any mentorship. Mentoring software goes a step further by providing organisations with the statistics to measure the health of their mentoring relationships. You are able to answer such questions as:

  • How many mentoring sessions have happened within this relationship?
  • Are the goals of this relationship being met?

Reporting and measuring

The return on investment of mentoring is a common bottleneck for most organisations as they might struggle to measure the impact of mentoring programs to justify the resources spent on creating them. Mentoring software fixes this by showing organisations the correlation between the number of mentoring relationships and other such parameters such as; resignations, promotions, employee engagement and so on.


Using Mentoring Software in 5 steps

Now that we understand how the features of mentoring software work, let’s look at the five steps to implementing mentoring software to improve mentorship in your organisation today.

Step 1 Setup: Design you mentoring program

Once you’ve chosen your mentoring software provider, you’ll need to design and setup your program. You can do this in conjunction with your provider who will guide you through the setup process.

  • Key areas to consider: The aim of your program, how many participants you want to reach, whether you need multiple programs for different aims, and the desired length of programs.

Step 2 Signup: Attract participants looking for mentoring

Once your software is ready to go, you’ll need to promote your program to get as many signups as possible. Promoting your program internally through newsletters, on your intranet and in company meetings and announcements is a great place to start. Organising a kick-off event is also a great way to generate buzz.

Step 3 Match: mentors and mentees

This is handled by the software, users input their data and are matched using smart AI. All you need to do is sit back and watch as hundreds of matches are made!

Step 4 Measure: the impact of your mentorship program

At strategic points you’ll want to check in on how your program is doing. With Guider, it’s simple to view your progress through our analytics dashboard that will show you how many matches have taken place, how many goals have been achieved and what skills are being requested or offered, among other things.

Step 5 Multiply: watch as your mentoring program grows!

As your mentoring program or programs grow, you’ll see mentorship flourish across your organisation. Mentoring software makes mentoring easy to scale, meaning that it works for global organisations to connect people worldwide.

If you’re looking for mentoring software to help you scale your mentoring program, then get in touch with Guider today. Find out more by booking a demo.

Mentoring Software