Men have the golf club, the cricket club, the pub darts’ team, the Sunday morning footie matches, the old boys’ network. Groups where they congregate across pay grades and job status, speak candidly [usually], facilitate introductions, have mentors share words of wisdom – and a joke or three.
Women have, well, I’m not sure what the equivalents are, but I’m pretty certain there aren’t as many opportunities for women to share their professional experiences with other women.
So it’s always interesting to hear of mentoring initiatives devised by women for women who have seen both sides of the coin, as mentees and mentors.
One of these is a new venture called Mentor Walks Australia, which launched yesterday in the beautiful surrounds of the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. The first of many events, it takes mentoring out of the office environment. Emerging female leaders walk and talk with established female executives out in the fresh air, exchanging ideas, discussing challenges they face, ambitions and lessons they have learnt.
Holly McGhee, who works at EY in the talent team and is diversity and inclusion lead for financial services, APAC, has signed up to be a mentee. She thinks being out in the open encourages more authentic conversations.
“My personal style is not very formal and corporate. I prefer to have natural conversations with people but I don’t really drink so being in a bar or hotel doesn’t appeal to me. Outside, strolling, the barriers come down a lot quicker.”
Any corporation worth its salt usually has a mentoring scheme up and running, many geared towards helping women executives step up into more senior roles. Added to that is the much-lauded Male Champions of Change coalition, working to achieve parity on issues around gender equity. But this mentoring scheme breaks new ground, says Jamila Gordon.
Gordon, a non-executive director of GetSwift and former group CIO of Qantas, is one of an impressive group of women who have signed up to mentor. When she first heard the idea, Gordon says she instantly loved it.
“It takes away the pressure, you can take your time, stop to look at a plant. You are using all your senses. The exercise means there is more oxygen coming into the body and you think better and more creatively than when you are sitting down.”
Gordon compares talking to her son at the table after school and getting monosyllabic answers to when they are walking the dog together when he’s much more voluble.
“We talk and I don’t have a piece of paper to recall everything we discuss so it becomes much more important that I remember. It pushes your memory to go into turbo-drive.”
Mentors have been drawn from a variety of industries and sectors, a diversity of thought that appeals to McGhee.
“I’m fascinated to have access to role models outside of EY and I’m hoping to learn from the experiences of women who not only have similar backgrounds to myself, but from those who have very different backgrounds. I want to know what their advice is for having a fulfilling career; to have a lifestyle that you aspire to, both personal and professional.”
The diversity of participants, and the energy and interaction with the environment are a formula that will appeal particularly to new generations entering the workforce who, we know, are less comfortable with formality.
Gordon puts it neatly. She says, “This is mentoring for the 21st century”.
7 HABITS OF HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL MENTORS
Management mentors in the US, list key traits for successful mentoring.
- Active Listeners. Mentors and mentees spend much of their relationship talking and listening to one another. Active listening is critical for both parties.
- Dedicated to Their Success. People who take pride in their work, who want to grow, and who truly care about their career trajectory are assets because of their high expectations.
- Dedicated to Others’ Success. The most successful (and happiest) people in life are not in it just for themselves. They care about the organization and have a genuine desire to see everyone and everything succeed.
- Curious. People who are naturally curious tend to follow the “if there’s a will, there’s a way” philosophy. If they don’t know the answer or if they need help with something, they’ll go looking for the answers.
- Engaged with their surroundings. These people view their work as more than just a job. They show interest in the industry, in the world around them, in the work that other departments are doing, and in the charitable events associated with their company.
- Willing to step out of their comfort zones. Prospective mentors and mentees who are willing to try something new and give it a go, will have the best chance at reaping the most benefits from the mentoring relationship.
- The 3 R’s: Responsible, Respectful, and Ready.
Applications for AHRI’s own mentoring scheme available exclusively to members, opens in December. To express interest in the next intake for April 2017, or to find out more: