Diversity and Inclusion

How to build a women's leadership mentoring program

Learn the ins and outs of starting a women's leadership mentoring program. We discuss the challenges women leaders face in the workplace and how mentoring can help them overcome these challenges.

Meryl D’Sa-Wilson

Published on 

June 1, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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While workplace conditions for women are improving, there are still many areas where women get left behind. One of those is women’s career development. Women in the workplace continue to navigate common stereotypes, demanding gender roles, and other roadblocks that impede their professional growth. It is because of these reasons that women are under-represented in leadership positions across the board.

Research shows that more women leaders are leaving their companies, and they are overworked and underrecognized and are judged far more strongly than male counterparts.

However, as an organization, you have the ability to provide female employees with opportunities and an environment that can help them succeed. Starting a women’s leadership mentoring program is one such way.

The challenges facing women leaders

While it takes a while for women to become leaders in their field and industry, the work doesn’t end once they are there. If anything, leadership positions draw more visibility and exposure, leading to new challenges. These can be political or socio-economic in nature and – if left unchecked – can affect productivity and mental health.

Here are some of the top challenges women leaders face

1. Discrimination and bias

Historically, women have been on the bad end of workplace discrimination. From slow career development to being left out of meetings to being limited to stereotypical tasks. This leaves a lot of women out of running for promotions or leadership roles.

2. Work-life balance

And most women have to tow the delicate balance between rising ranks at work and conforming to traditional gender roles at home. This constant task of balancing work and home life while maintaining good mental and physical health leads to more stress and exhaustion.

3. High expectations

Women leaders are often compared extensively to their male counterparts. In some cases, they may be held to even higher standards and by extension, judged more harshly. This can lead to burnout, low confidence levels, and imposter syndrome.

4. Gender gap

Women continue to be paid much less than their male counterparts for doing the same job or being at the same career level. Not being paid fairly and enough to accommodate a comfortable living situation can impact their quality of life and ability to work efficiently.

5. Harassment

According to an EEOC report, about 62.2% of harassment charges were filed by women between FY 2018 and FY 2021. A more recent report by the International Labor Organization, “Young women were twice as likely as young men to have experienced sexual violence and harassment at work.” Working in a state of harassment and trauma can severely impact the quality of work and mental stability, leading to women quitting or failing in the workplace.

What is a women's leadership mentoring program?

A women’s leadership mentoring program (WLMP) is designed to encourage and support the growth of women leaders in an organization through mentorship, sponsorship, and personalized coaching. 

When done right, a women’s leadership mentoring program can benefit both your women employees as well as your organization as a whole. Here are some of the benefits that companies with inspirational leaders enjoy:

  • Increase gender diversity and create an inclusive work environment that sets all employees up for success.
  • Improve retention by increasing employee engagement and job satisfaction for your women workers.
  • Attract top talent by showing your organization cares for and nurtures all perspectives and experiences. 

What are the benefits of mentoring programs for women leaders?

According to a Global Leadership Forecast study by DDI, top CEO concerns in 2023 include attracting and retaining top talent, developing the next generation of leaders, and maintaining an engaged workforce. One way to address these concerns is through mentorship.

Unfortunately, women don’t have the same access to mentorship as their male counterparts, depriving them of growth opportunities. Mentoring programs for women leaders create a space for growth and development. Through mentorship, budding leaders can connect with industry experts and benefit from knowledge sharing, problem-solving, diverse perspectives, and more. In fact, one study found that retention and promotion rates for women participating in mentorship programs increased from 15% to 38%

Besides merely increasing the retention rates of your women leaders, here are a few other ways these mentoring programs can help your organization:

1. Career advancement

People with mentors are happier at their current jobs. When mentees are paired with seasoned mentors, they benefit from personalized coaching and guidance that helps with career development and professional growth. 

2. Leadership development for high-potential employees

Budding leaders and high-potential employees can use mentorship meetings as a space to identify their strengths and work on their weaknesses.

3. Networking opportunities

Mentees and mentors can also use mentorship as an opportunity to expand their professional network by connecting with other experts and thought leaders in the industry, attending conferences and seminars together, and more. 

4. Greater gender diversity

Companies with greater gender diversity are 7 times more likely to have strong leadership and 4 times more likely to have sustained profitable growth.

5. Identify and address challenges

Through mentorship and open communication, your organization can understand and address issues faced by women both on the path to leadership and as leaders.

3 Types of women’s leadership mentoring program

There are a few different ways you can set up effective mentoring programs for women leaders in your organization. You can invite them to join your general mentoring program or create a separate women-focused program. This depends on your resources and employees interested in participating.

Let’s look at the common types of mentoring programs for women:

1. Woman-to-woman (1:1) mentoring

Pairing a junior female employee with a senior one has many benefits. Same-sex mentoring creates a safe space for both professional and personal growth. Women empowering women (WEW) instances – like when women mentor women – are known for helping budding leaders find encouragement, support, and guidance.

However, if your organization is building a mentorship program to increase women leaders, then you probably currently have a deficit of senior female employees. In this case, pair your junior female employees with a senior male employee who can help them ascend their position.

2. Peer mentoring

Alternatively, you can pair high-potential women employees with each other. These are often women in similar roles or career stages, seeking growth and support. This way, they can share their experiences of navigating issues, brainstorm solutions, and more.

3. Group mentoring

And then you have group mentoring that involves multiple mentees and mentors. This is a good option to create a vast pool of potential leaders and managers. Plus, it gives women access to diverse perspectives and connections to add to their network.

How Together helps to women future leaders with mentoring

Together makes it easy to run a mentoring program. Our mentoring platform matches mentees and mentors based on our customizable pairing algorithm to ensure the best match.

Have a look at how we helped these two companies achieve their women-focused mentorship and management goals:

Avison Young

Avison Young, a global commercial real estate services firm, recognized the importance of diversity and launched a mentorship program to support their Women's Network. 

However, managing the program proved challenging until they adopted Together's Mentoring Software. Together's platform streamlined the registration, pairing, and management processes, resulting in over 550 participants being paired. 

Results: Together made it possible for Avison Young to intelligently match hundreds of employees. The average rating was 3.97 out of 4 for mentoring pairs. Building on that success, Avison Young has launched several more programs, including a global mentorship program to connect employees worldwide.

The Forum

The Forum is a Canadian-based non-profit that aims to “help women entrepreneurs access the resources & community they need to thrive in business.” 

The Forum wanted to improve the process of connecting mentors with budding entrepreneurs. Prior to using Together’s platform, their process involved spreadsheets and manually pairing. 

Results: Now, The Forum can effortlessly match mentors and mentees based on their goals, skills, and plans shared in registration surveys. Automating this process – to a certain degree – has given them more time to focus on how the program performs. They can conveniently monitor progress through Together’s Health Monitor Dashboard.

7 Tips for implementing an effective women's leadership mentoring program

So, how do you get started and what’s the best approach for your organization? As mentioned earlier, the type of women’s leadership mentorship program you create depends on your business goals and resources. But it helps to go in with a plan.

Let’s explore tips for implementing effective mentoring programs for women leaders.

 

1. Develop clear goals 

As you create your mentoring program for women leaders, start by setting a clear purpose and realistic goals. This ensures everyone is on the same page with clear expectations.

2. Extol the benefits of the program

For employees to participate, they need to buy into your mentorship program. So, make sure to clearly deliver the benefits of participating in such a program as well as the program’s goals.

3. Show them how to build relationships 

The quality of the mentor-mentee relationship determines the success of the program. So, prioritize building relationships by encouraging open communication, matching pairs carefully, collecting feedback, and more.

4. Provide adequate resources

Provide mentors and mentees with training and development opportunities where they can acquire, upgrade, and practice new skills and knowledge.

5. Encourage networking

Increase visibility and connections by providing mentees with opportunities to network with other women leaders in your organization or industry.

6. Raise awareness about unconscious bias

Part of improving the workplace for women is addressing issues and challenges they face. Take time to raise awareness and identify actions that can prevent these challenges.

7. Collect feedback

Finally, gather feedback on the program so you can tweak and improve it. Evaluate it for effectiveness and collect suggestions for improvements.

Build a successful women's leadership mentoring program with Together’s mentoring platform

A mentoring program for women leaders can go a long way in connecting women with other women. These connections and relationships will provide guidance, support, and inspiration. Plus, who better understands the challenges faced by women than women leaders who worked hard to get to the top?

Pairing budding leaders with seasoned mentors will help them navigate challenges, find creative solutions, and learn from different perspectives.

Together can help you match mentors and mentees efficiently and carefully. You can use Together’s algorithm or pair them yourselves. You can run surveys to understand what exactly your mentees want and need from the program, and then find them a perfect match. 

See what this looks like in action — Book a demo today!

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