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So you want to hire and retain more women?

So you want to hire and retain more women? We present tips and strategies at London Tech Week

At London Tech Week, we presented at the event: So you want to hire and retain more women? Together with our partner organisations Work180 and Applied, we shared insights on how a holistic approach on how to attract, hire, develop and retain more women to ensure you build a sustainable pipeline of female talent – and keep them!

It starts by changing the way we think.

What we’ve learnt at Mentorloop over the years, is that people often have a very specific view of what mentoring is, and who it applies to.
That is, that it’s a formal, offline relationship formed behind closed doors. It’s often elitist and revolves around the concept of ‘the chosen one.’

But it’s this very perception that we at Mentorloop are challenging. Mentoring is relevant to every single one of us, regardless of where you are at in life or your career – and that is why at Mentorloop we see mentoring a little differently.

We believe the right connection can change a life. We all benefit when a colleague or connection shows us the ropes, gives us a push, or sponsors us for a new opportunity. We need to make sure these opportunities are available to everyone, especially women and other under-represented groups.

Nowadays every single employee is waking up to the fact that if they are not developing themselves, they are falling behind.

And companies are realising that if they don’t offer this development, then their employees will depart and seek it elsewhere. That’s why over 70% of Fortune 500 Companies run mentoring programs.

Global IT company Sun Microsystems, with over 35,000 employees is one of those companies. They ran a 5-year study comparing the career progression of 1,000 employees and found that employees who received mentoring were promoted FIVE times more often than people who didn’t have mentors. The study even found that mentees — and mentors — were 20% more likely to get a raise than people who did not participate in the mentoring program.

There’s a direct link between mentorship impacting career progression and an increase in wages. So, if these are two things we are trying to progress and solve for women, why isn’t mentoring seen as more of a priority in order to retain more women?

Over the past couple of years, Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey have partnered to understand better what men and women are experiencing in the workplace in the post #MeToo era. And what they found is that we are moving in the wrong direction.

Now, women are actually getting less access to mentorship and sponsorship opportunities. Since #metoo kicked off, we are now in a situation where 60% of male managers say they are uncomfortable mentoring, socializing or even working alone with women in the workplace.

Whether this is driven by sexism or because men (perhaps unconsciously) gravitate toward helping other men, the result is that women are missing out.

1 in 6 Male Managers is Uncomfortable Mentoring a Female Colleague

On the back foot

We are already starting from a position where women are underrepresented in most organisations, especially at senior levels. If fewer men mentor women, fewer women will rise to leadership. As long as this imbalance of power remains, women and other marginalised groups are at greater risk of being overlooked, undermined, and undervalued.

We can no longer be passive in our approach to mentoring. We have to be deliberate, direct and determined.

It’s not enough for a mentor program to simply “feature” in your gender policy. A simple tick box – ‘yes, we offer mentoring opportunities’ is too passive.


Build it and they will come

If we are truly going to bring people in off the sidelines we have to have a strategy to make them want in. What we’ve learnt over the years at Mentorloop, is that simply offering mentoring as an opt-in to all does not work.

Don’t get me wrong. You still need to build a field. But the hard work lies in filling the stadium.

So how do we practically do this?

Mentor someone that doesn't look like you. Learn more about how to support and retain more women in your organisation.

Tear down mini-me mentoring

New research from the Center for Talent Innovation, discovered 71% of mentors say that their chosen mentees are the same race and gender as they are.

When mentors are found picking only mentees who look and think like them, this cultivates a culture of mentoring where only more of the same kind of people are likely to grow and thrive in a company.

Dubbed as “mini-me syndrome,” it is described as an unconscious instinct to favour those who remind us of ourselves. This is why we can’t have a set and forget mentality to mentoring. When left to operate ‘organically’ we open ourselves up to building a culture of mini-me mentoring.

This is why you need someone driving the mentor program that is tied back to specific gender-related outcomes, that are measurable and transparent within your organisation.

Are you putting an end to ‘mini-me’ mentoring?


It can be done, it’s proven

In 2018, this strategy was deployed for one of our clients, Xero, who launched a women’s focussed mentor program that aligned with International Women’s Day.

Given there is even greater gender disparity in the tech industry, mentoring is incredibly important and having someone in your court to advise and provide guidance makes an enormous difference.  

Since their launch, Xero has expanded their program beyond this cohort to their 2,000 employees across global offices, including Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the UK understand the benefits to all intersectional cohorts.  

Xero’s deployment of their Mentorloop program signifies a trend towards larger, established businesses recognising the importance of mentoring as a business critical function, rather than a nice-to-have perk.

What’s also been great about this program is that senior men have embraced the opportunity to mentor the next generation of female talent with men representing 87% of the mentor pool.

We always say at Mentorloop that the best mentoring relationships are reciprocal in nature. We all have something to offer and to learn and for the mentors in this example, it’s an opportunity for them to talk to someone they might not necessarily normally work with and gain an insight into the challenges or concerns faced by women of all different backgrounds.

It’s one of the most cost-effective investments any organisation can make.

So if mentor programs make for more engaged and happy employees, and employees rate the importance of having a mentor highly, how do we ensure we make this opportunity available and meaningful for our female talent? We have the tools for getting the most out of your mentoring program to, in turn, retain more women in your organisation.


Make a move to mentor someone that is different from you.

To start a guided culture of mentoring in your organisation, get in touch with one of our mentoring specialists, today.

Start a mentoring culture

Heidi Holmes

Heidi is the Co-founder and COO of Mentorloop. She's passionate about all things mentoring, Kenny Rogers and Italian Greyhounds.

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