Who is holding who back: women or organisations? – Mentoring women

New survey finds when it comes to mentoring – provide women the opportunities, they will provide the time.

Findings indicate that women see the immense benefits and value from mentoring but so many opportunities for mentoring are being missed.

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Drawing on the responses from 318 businesswomen from 19 countries across the globe, Women as Mentors: Does She or Doesn’t She provides a fresh perspective on the view and experience of women and mentoring and current mentoring practices in organisations. Respondents in the study were primarily mid or senior level leaders.

Whilst so much talk is about the absence of women on boards and in senior leadership roles, the latest research from DDI might provide some answers as to why. Women in senior roles have been working their way to the top on their own with little mentoring along the way. 63 percent of the women surveyed identified they have never had a formal mentor themselves. Interestingly, a very similar percent of women (67%) rate mentorship as highly important in helping to advance and grow their careers.

But it’s not just women; it’s organisations that can help women rise to leadership roles.

In organisations with formal programs, half of all women (50 percent) have had a formal mentor in comparison to only one in four at organisations that do not have such programs.

Three out of four women who work for organisations with formal mentoring programs always accept mentoring opportunities. This is nearly 10 percent more than women who work for organisations without a formal program. And it seems formal programs not only boost formal mentoring but informal mentorships as well. Women in higher-level positions at organisations with formal programs reported not only being asked more frequently (x1.3) to be formal mentors but are asked to be informal mentors as well (almost double).

Mentoring helps develop the next generation of leaders by giving beginning and mid- stage leaders the chance to learn from the successes and missteps of an experienced leader. –Senior-level leader in finance

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While these women may have paved their own way, the study tells us that women are more than happy to help other women develop and progress in their careers. It seems if there was any perception that women are doing things for themselves the research says otherwise. The number one reason cited for why women mentor is because they want to be supportive of other women—80 percent agreed. Further, whilst time commitment is the biggest consideration (75 percent) for what holds women back when mentoring, only 1 in 10 women chose not to mentor because it interfered with family time or other commitments.

‘’This outlook for women wanting to grow their careers is positive’’ says Shannon Lawrence, Principal Consultant at DDI Australia. ‘’While many of the women we surveyed hadn’t had formal mentors themselves, the majority have mentored (78 percent) as they see such great value in doing so – all other women need to do is ask’’. 54 percent reported that they have only been asked to be a mentor a few times in their career or less, whilst 20 percent reported they have never been asked to be a mentor. ‘’If women help themselves by asking to be mentored and we help each other by taking on mentorships, the role of women in leadership could really start to evolve with a fantastic supportive network behind it’’.

If there’s a belief that if asked a potential mentee won’t say yes we should think again. 71 percent of women in our study reported that they always accept invitations to be formal mentors at work. And, overwhelmingly, women reported that they would mentor more if they were asked.

Mentoring women

From the findings, DDI identifies a number of key steps both women and organisations can take to increase mentoring opportunities and ensure a high payoff from mentoring.

Women need to:

  • Stop waiting for mentorships to be assigned
  • Start seeking out mentors for themselves
  • Continue to accept invitations to mentor
  • Advertise their willingness to be mentor
  • Establish and set expectations up front for the mentorship
  • Clearly define desired learning goals for the mentorship
  • Be both on the lookout for, and open to, finding men who will mentor them – because there are often fewer senior women to look to

Organisations need to:

  • Stop leaving mentoring to chance
  • Start making mentoring contagious—formalise programs, provide support and training
  • Encourage and institute mentoring with formal programs. Provide communication around mentoring as well as training and support for potential mentors and mentees so they are prepared to participate.
  • Develop a culture that makes mentoring common practice

Women are eager to take on mentoring roles and support other women, but they are not being asked or given the opportunity often enough. The feedback we received from hundreds of women makes the message clear. When it comes to mentoring—provide women the opportunities, they will provide the time, and everyone will benefit.

About DDI

For over 40 years, DDI has helped the most successful companies around the world close the gap between where their businesses need to go and the talent required to take them there.

Our areas of expertise span every level, from individual contributors to the executive suite:

  • Success Profile Management
  • Selection & Assessment
  • Leadership & Workforce Development
  • Succession Management
  • Performance Management

DDI’s comprehensive, yet practical approach to talent management starts by ensuring a close connection of our solutions to your business strategies, and ends only when we produce the results you require. http://www.ddiworld.com.au/aboutddi.

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One reply on “Who is holding who back: women or organisations? – Mentoring women

  • RS

    I’ve had two (older) senior-level female mentors in two different organisations. A few years later opportunity arose for my position to be equal to theirs (recognized by CEO and Board) and they both (separate people and times) turned rather nasty. At the time, I was so confused- but now I look back and realise they thought I was a threat as I had achieved a number of successes and was recognized for it. They became my glass ceiling, not the men. In hindsight, it has been a good thing perhaps as I’ve started my own business- but Im sometimes amazed how a woman can go from being the mentor to being a rather cruel glass ceiling – if it seems you will be more successful than they. I would think I and we would have been more successful as my ally or perhaps at least professionally recognized as their peer.

    To the senior mentors out there- please don’t be threatened by successful younger women who you have/haven’t mentored. We still respect you- and don’t want your job. Find a way we can create our own job- even if it means we become your peer.

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