Mentoring is a valuable addition to any woman’s professional life, but how do mentoring schemes benefit businesses? We take a look at four ways mentoring can be used to address common business challenges.
1. Tackling the gender pay gap
One of the key factors underpinning the gender pay gap, in which a company pays men more than women, is a lack of women in senior roles. ‘Vertical occupational segregation’, where men are disproportionately promoted into the most senior and well-paid roles and women are clustered in more junior and less well paid roles, is a problem across all sectors. The obvious solution is to promote more women, so for companies where there is not a deep pool of candidates for leadership roles, mentoring is essential.
Creating a leadership development scheme where women are mentored specifically to develop their leadership potential is one way to tackle the problem. But simply being a mentor improves women’s leadership skills, providing them with the opportunity to learn how to give better feedback, help others develop their skills and careers, and improve their communication skills.
Data from a Gartner study of Sun Microsystems’ mentoring scheme shows that mentors enjoy a 6 times higher promotion rate than non-mentors (whilst mentees enjoy a 5 times higher rate), so if you need to promote more women, ensure that you’re giving all your female staff the opportunity to be a mentor.
2. Improving staff retention
According to Acas, it costs £30,000 to replace a member of staff, with the majority of that cost down to the “loss of productivity caused by the time it takes – 28 weeks on average – for a new recruit to get up to speed.” Losing a member of staff doesn’t just cost money, it also means a loss of valuable institutional knowledge, some of which may never be recreated by their replacement or colleagues. Staff retention should be at the top of every HR manager’s priorities.
A 2019 survey of 8,000 full- and part-time workers by CNBC and SurveyMonkey reported that, “Happy, more productive workers are valuable to any company for the simple fact they tend to stay longer. More than 4 in 10 workers who don’t have a mentor say they’ve considered quitting their job in the past three months, compared with just 25% of those who do have a mentor.”
The cost of replacing one member of staff could cover the cost of mentoring for 125 women on the Finding Ada Network for a year, so the cost-benefit analysis of mentoring points clearly at it being great value for money.
3. Recruiting more women
The Institution of Engineering and Technology found last year that 53 percent of businesses “are concerned that a shortage of engineers in the UK is a threat to their business”. And a report from the Confederation of British Industry and Tata Consultancy Services found that demand for digital skills “outstrips supply, with over two thirds of businesses reporting unfilled digital skills vacancies”.
On top of these skills shortages is an even greater shortage of women. Only 22 percent of the UK STEM workforce are women, which makes it difficult for STEM businesses to attract enough female job applicants, especially for technical roles.
A sponsored mentoring scheme, where a company sponsors women from the community to be mentored by their female employees is not just an opportunity to give back to the #WomeninSTEM community, it’s also a way to find and develop new talent. Women who perhaps might not have considered your company as a place they want to work may do so after having a positive mentoring experience with one of your female staff.
4. Supporting ‘intrapreneurs’
The Women in Tech report found that although 80 percent of women in science, engineering and technology say that they love their work, 56 percent leave in mid-career, some 10 to 20 years in. More than twice as many women quit high tech than men – 41 percent compared to 17 percent.
“Evidence suggests that women face difficulties in accessing core, innovative technical roles,” the report says, with only 2.1 percent of all US IT patents going to individual women or all-women teams. In short, businesses are missing out on great ideas because they aren’t paying attention to women.
A mentoring scheme focused on growing women’s intrapreneurial skills, teaching them how to identify and develop innovative ideas, not only gives women the opportunity to develop their creativity, it also ensures that valuable ideas aren’t lost to the company. Helping women to realise their creative ambitions also helps increase job satisfaction, retention and promotion.
We have decades of evidence to show how mentoring benefits women, whether they are mentors or mentees. But mentoring schemes also benefit the companies that invest in them, creating a culture of learning and development that encourages creativity, innovation and growth, all of which are essential to business success.