The classic picture of mentoring that comes to mind for many, is that of the wise older man, mentoring the younger male protege.
We’re just so very used to seeing male mentors. Often, they are seen mentoring other men but more recently, mentoring women too.
At Mentorloop, we are seeing this dynamic changing every day where women are rapidly merging into the lanes of mentoring. As more women enter positions of leadership and seniority, we see a growing number of women mentoring too.
A mentoring relationship that we see the least, however, is women in leadership roles mentoring men, their junior.
This International Women’s Day, we’d like to encourage others by shining a spotlight on some of these mentoring relationships that work so well.
It’s no secret that experts have said that these mentoring relationships do indeed bring something different – a gained perspective that encourages inclusive behaviour. It can often be a positive first step towards welcoming more diversity and inclusion in the workplace, from the ground up.
We spoke with a mentoring duo, Jim and Natalie from AMP about their experience of mentoring. Natalie mentors Jim along with four women.
Let’s meet Natalie and Jim:
Natalie: I have worked in Financial Services for 23 years and my work experience is diverse and covers retail banking, lending, compliance and financial planning. In July 2017 I took a step out of my comfort zone and accepted a role in Group Insurance Operations which has been a wonderful experience and which, has now, for the first time in my career allowed me to be really clear on where my strengths lie, the roles that I am passionate about and the opportunities I will seek in the future. I have recently been approached to work on a large scale enterprise project as a stream lead which will see me heavily buried in fulfilling work for the next two years. I am married and the mum to a wonderfully energetic 4-year-old girl.
Jim: I am currently the Fast Track Claims Team Manager based out of Melbourne. I’ve worked at AMP for approximately 15 years with all of that time spent in the Claims department.
At Mentorloop we talk often about the importance of building a personal advisory board. It’s likely at some point we have all had informal mentors that we have called upon for advice or guidance. We asked Natalie and Jim to share a bit about the people who have helped them in their career to date.
Natalie: I have had a mix of mentors over the years (ones I resonated with and ones I didn’t). In my early career, I was only one of a handful of women in the financial planning industry. Due to this, I had many years of male leaders and mentors – most if not all left a lasting positive impression on me. During those early years, the female leaders I worked with were not the ones I aspired to be. Over the years though as the calibre of women entering the industry has improved I found and continue to be engaged with some exceptional female mentors both formally and informally.
Jim: Although I had not had a direct mentor prior to Natalie, what is obvious stepping back now is that all my direct managers have all been male. Of those, my current direct manager Mark has been the biggest influencer in my career.
Mark has always challenged me to keep it simple when communicating with our internal and external stakeholders. Furthermore, when I have addressed an issue/problem with him he will always challenge me to think of the “problem” in many angles in order to have a well-rounded view of the issue which will allow me to be flexible to tailor the solution.
What drew you towards becoming a mentor?
Natalie: I haven’t been mentored the whole of my career. It has definitely been in waves when I have felt the need for career direction and support. Conversely, I have always mentored but in waves. I usually mentor when I am in a role that doesn’t have any direct reports. Being in the industry so long allows me now to bring experience and perspective to mentees that in my early years may have been missing. I have also made and been on the receiving end of many poor decisions which again is always helpful to impart on others.
Over the years I have mentored on and off during my career. Most of the mentoring commenced in my late 20s and early 30s. This year I am mentoring four amazing women and of course, Jim.
Jim: I’ve learned a great deal from Natalie. During our catch ups, when discussing my current challenges in my team, Natalie’s approach is very strategic and very clear which has allowed me to drive the solution whilst upskilling my leadership skills.
Mentoring more than often is reciprocal, we asked Natalie what she has learned about herself, her mentoring style and mentoring in general.
Natalie: My mentoring style is fluid like the way I work. It means that I allow the conversation to go where it needs to go. What I take away from the sessions is a renewed commitment to self-reflect on how I am performing and what I need to be doing to work on my own development areas. It is surprising how many of my mentees are experiencing the same challenges as myself or have the same development areas.
Do you think there are any key differences between male and female mentors? Tell us more
Natalie: You need to be able to get the right mentor for you at the right time which may or may not be gender-based. I resonate the most with mentors that have been through or are experiencing similar life/work experiences to myself. One of the times a female mentor worked well for me was when I was attempting to start my family.
Jim: During my LeaderU Program, there was a very strong presence of female participants and importantly several mentors were female as well. I believe that this needs to be encouraged. Several discussions I had with Natalie were directly on how to upskill my leadership approach when dealing with my female staff. Our strategic catch-up proved to be invaluable as I was able to apply those in the future weeks.
When asked, what advice would he give to organisations to support more women in these roles Jim suggested;
Jim: Be flexible and supportive and support female staff with a clear path to develop.
Mentoring can be incredibly powerful in this regard.
International Women’s Day
With International Women’s Day just gone by this month, now is the perfect time to think about how you could deploy a bespoke mentor program to better support your people. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in hearing more about our special IWD package.