A tool for gender equality

Martine Liautaud, Author, Breaking Through: Stories and Best Practices from Companies That Help Women Leaders Succeed

A tool for gender equality

Diversity is not a fashionable fancy that helps filling up a few pages in the Annual Report.

Diversity is a true and efficient response to the challenge of growth, inside and outside the corporate world.

Women are the force that drives the entrepreneurial growth and this force can be released through two powerful tools: mentoring and sponsoring.

Mentoring and sponsoring produce a range of benefits for the mentees, including changes in their attitudes about work, in their personalities and in their ambitions, positive impacts on their careers and improved relationships with their colleagues.

But for mentoring and sponsoring to be successful, they need to be recognized as key to achieving the company’s aims – integrating employees and engaging them with the company’s values – and they also need to be integrated throughout the workforce, and supported by CEOs.

Many studies show that gender equality and diversity increase the company’s overall performance.

But they also help groups to lead social thinking and social change and gain a positive image in a very sensitive and differentiating area.

The European and US Groups that are at the leading edge of gender equality have all implemented a range of measures including elaborate mentoring programs to improve high-potential women’s access to senior posts.

These programs share the same objectives whatever the companies involved:

  • Retain talents
  • Facilitate women’s professional and personal developments
  • Increase the number of women in key posts of responsibility.

At Oracle, for instance, the program is presented to mentors and mentees before starting, along with the commitments and expectations required of each mentor and mentee. Meetings are organized regularly over breakfasts or lunches to encourage the sharing of experiences. Each mentor has a contact within the pilot management group to refer if necessary. The group is responsible for all the experiences of the pairs. At the European level, discussions are also organized via a network that brings mentors together. And if the latter meet any problem in terms of listening, communicating or restating, training is available.

Every beneficiary of the program must respect the aims agreed to at the start, and remain responsible for their achievement. The mentees acquire new skills and widen their knowledge base through discussions with the mentor. They must be open to their mentor’s comments and accept possible changes of direction. They must optimize the opportunities made available through mentoring, which is like a new kind of apprenticeship. Through the program, each mentee gains in confidence, benefits from encouragement and support, and becomes more visible in terms of career progression.

Many CEOs over the world would agree on the benefits of mentoring programs and other similar tools.

Says Karen Peetz, President of BNY Mellon, about the initiatives in favor of women : ”I think we are moving from what was an altruistic suggestion to a much more economic imperative… and when you look at it that way, you realize that the country that does the best job of mobilizing will end up performing better”.

No doubt that BNY Mellon will reap the benefits of this attention and interest for women, knowing that, since 2009 the Bank has witnessed a very impressive outcome of its Women’s Initiative Network:  one hundred per cent increase in the number of women in the workforce, thirty-six per cent of vice-president, twenty-six per cent of managing directors and nineteen per cent of the Executive Committee are women.

About the Author

Martine Liautaud is the author of BREAKING THROUGH: Stories and Best Practices from Companies That Help Women Leaders Succeed (Wiley, April 2016).  Liautaud is also founder the Women Initiative Foundation (WIF), in coordination with global energy player and expert operator ENGIE. WIF seeks to improve the place of women in business and increase their presence in universities around the world through active mentorship, sponsorship support and training programs.