Mentoring to achieve gender parity
Helen Parker, co-founder of Another Production, on why mentorship schemes are paramount in the bid to expand the diversity of our work places.
The battle for equality in the workplace has never been more fiercely fought than at this moment.
The creative industries are lucky enough to have a number of dedicated organisations battling for equality, while businesses at all levels are held to account with the publication of league tables that note the number of BAME employees, women board members and staff members from diverse backgrounds.
More than three quarters of Fortune 500 companies running a mentoring programme of some kind.
But the focus should not just be about the end result. I believe businesses in all sectors could benefit from more time being devoted to the exploration of methods by which to achieve these outcomes.
One age-old process that is still highly effective is mentoring. Mentoring has been on the rise in recent years, with more than three quarters of Fortune 500 companies running a mentoring programme of some kind.
A company that offers mentoring cares about its employees and is open to helping them make the most of their abilities.
Just three years ago 79% of millennials said that mentorship programs are crucial to their career success, while 47% said they would switch jobs to find a better workplace culture - something mentorship plays a large part in enhancing.
A company that offers mentoring cares about its employees and is open to helping them make the most of their abilities and to grow professionally and personally, with the ultimate goal being greater career success and all-round happiness.
Several studies over the last 30 years or more show companies that provide mentoring enjoy a higher retention rate.
Indeed, mentoring does not only benefit the individual. Several studies over the last 30 years or more show companies that provide mentoring enjoy a higher retention rate, and while mentored employees earn more money and are better socialised into the organisation, they are also more productive. Which should reassure any wavering employer that they will reap what they sow.
But mentoring is not just about workplace satisfaction. Today it plays a central role in improving the issue of diversity – or lack thereof – in companies across every sector.
There has been much focus in the financial sector on the drive to get more women on boards, and at the end of last year The 30% Club – the women’s campaign group which runs a cross-company mentorship scheme - said the proportion of women on the boards of the UK’s 350 most valuable public companies has exceeded 30% for the first time, up from just 9.5% in 2010.
When women drive more than 70% of consumer purchase decisions, does it not scream common sense to have a board that better represents your customer base?
The club, which has some 2,000 mentors and mentees across 108 organisations, “encourages individuals to be more confident, face more challenges and achieve more success”, something founder Dame Helena Morrissey believes will become self-perpetuating as they demonstrate their added value to the boards and organisations they join.
By increasing the diversity of leadership teams, businesses will see better innovation and improved financial performance, increasing company profits by 19% according to the Boston Consulting Group.
If you are involved, in any way, with the creation or marketing of a brand that women may conceivably buy... your business needs to better represent the British public.
And if that wasn’t incentive enough, look at the basic science behind such a move: when women drive more than 70% of consumer purchase decisions, does it not scream common sense to have a board that better represents your customer base?
If you are involved, in any way, with the creation or marketing of a brand that women may conceivably buy – and these days that covers just about anything, including razors, clothes and toiletries for male partners – your business needs to better represent the British public. So that’s more female, BAME and LGBTQ employees.
By increasing the diversity of leadership teams, businesses will see better innovation and improved financial performance.
One of the most fundamental elements of the advertising process is in creative photography. Another Production commissions photographers and currently only 25% of women are commercially represented, despite between 50 and 70% of photography students being women.
Photography course leaders tell us that low confidence in female students is a barrier to them pursuing a career in photography. This inspired us to set up our own mentoring scheme for women studying a BA or MA in photography, pairing them with a top commercial photographer for a three-month period. Our inaugural mentorship scheme has been sponsored by Simply Be and Deliveroo which promises the successful applicants experience at the very front line of commercial photography.
Given its low cost and proven effectiveness, mentorship will continue to be a key driver in the push for gender and socio-economic movement.
Steffi Klenz, Reader in Photography at University for the Creative Arts – one of our participating universities - feels women have “pronounced imposter syndrome and under represent themselves - so mentorships are ideal to combat their deep rooted under confidence”.
This sums up the problem – and the solution - perfectly. We know first-hand what needs to be done, but progress is still too slow. At the current rates of change we are still 100 years away from gender equality, and social mobility in the UK is currently at a standstill.
Given its low cost and proven effectiveness, mentorship will continue to be a key driver in the push for gender and socio-economic movement in all industries. The results are evident - it’s time more companies and organisations started taking on the challenge of combating gender disparity.