Traditionally within the Third Sector, we see far higher levels of female employment. In fact, according to HM Government’s 2018 Gender Equality monitor, “over half of all UK women work within health, education and retail sectors”, with over 50% of the health and education workforce identifying as female. However, this high level of representation simply does not translate to senior positions. For instance, the same report shows that “while women dominate the education sector, they tend to work in lower paying phases and are underrepresented in leadership roles…women make up 38% of Head Teachers, despite representing 63% of the workforce.” And the problem does not end with cisgender women, as 30% of LGBTQ and non-binary people report that they have not been open with any senior colleagues.
So, how can we change this? I’ve paired up with aspirational women at Goodman Masson, Magella Burnett (Manager of Not-for-Profit Finance) and Zoe Green (Senior Consultant within Public Sector Tech and ‘Rising Star 2021’ award winner) and, Kerrie Dorman (professional Mentor), to talk mentoring, and how it is uniting and empowering women in their sectors.
Magella, Zoe, you both work in traditionally very male dominated markets (Finance and Technology), what would you say the biggest barrier is when recruiting female talent?
Zoe: Within public sector IT the biggest barrier we find is that there are just so many more people who identify as male working in the sector than those who identify as females; particularly in senior positions. I ran a report on LinkedIn Insights and found that 82% of talent in the sector self-identified as male. Of course, the reasons for this are multifaceted, but something I have encountered a lot is the ‘Maternal Wall’.
Just the other day I read that most women face the maternal wall before they reach the glass ceiling and I really think that is true. According to studies, one in 20 women who take maternity leave are made redundant during their pregnancy, on their maternity leave or on their return, and for many childcare costs can also cause issues when returning to work, and these factors all play a role in career progression. Therefore, it’s not really a surprise that there are less women in the senior market, to begin with, and that’s before you even start to think about things like unconscious bias and imposter syndrome etc.
Magella: From working in my specialist market, Finance across the charity and non-profit sector, I agree with Zoe that there are barriers to women; especially at senior levels the gender disparity (weighted against female representation) is huge (only one third of Charity sector CFOs are female based on the LinkedIn Insights research we conducted, compared to almost two thirds at Finance Manager level).
I also echo Zoe’s point on imposter syndrome. Without significant female representation in the most senior-level jobs, who do those women who are aspiring to progress look to for advice, mentoring, or for a role model they see themselves in?
Childcare is something that is always brought up in these conversations, and if I am being really sceptical, I do still think there is inherent discrimination of women of a certain age or recently married women I’ve known women attend interviews and purposely avoid talking about their children for fear of being judged. I’m yet to speak to a man who has felt the need to consider this! It is 2021 people! Parental responsibilities very much can and should be equally shared, so why is it still (overwhelmingly) women who face this as a barrier to success and progression? In the post-Covid world of better flexible and agile working, it should become increasingly easy for fathers and mothers alike to manage work and childcare without it being a barrier.
Well, that all sounds pretty ominous… but increasing female representation is something we all want! I know from working with you both recently that lots of clients are now actively looking to address underrepresentation when they’re recruiting, how can mentoring help with this?
Zoe: Well, for lots of people, seeing someone in a position or place they want to get to help to build their vision and show what’s possible. If you have a mentor that embodies at least some of what you want to be, it will help you to get there and subsequently increase female representation.
For me, I have an incredible female mentor who has been positioned above me in recruitment, been where I have been, and also gone on a lot further, which is incredibly helpful. In some instances, I imagine that it is also hard to mentor someone about certain issues that typically more women face if you are a man and have not been in the same position.
Being a mentor can also really help to build management skills and gain experience in motivating and teaching people who are more junior. This in turn is another great way to help women progress into senior roles, as it gives them an opportunity to gain the experience and skills that employers are looking for. A Korn Ferry study across female CEOs found that 14% of the CEO’s interviewed attributed their success to mentors.
Sounds great in theory – but how can mentoring help women to get jobs on a practical level? Kerrie, as a professional mentor, what can you tell us about the real-life impacts of mentoring?
Kerrie: Women understand the biases and barriers that are still very much prevalent today. A female mentor preparing a female mentee for a job interview or promotion can provide first-hand guidance in how to position themselves, especially if facing a male hiring panel. Having a blend of mentoring support across gender and industry is the healthiest way to be supported.
There is even some evidence that mentoring benefits female mentees more than it does male mentees (Tharenou, 2005). It has also been suggested that e-mentoring is beneficial to mixed gender mentoring relationships, as the reduced level of social cues in electronic communication may enable a more power-free dialogue (Hamilton and Scandura, 2002).
Interesting. I’m sure some women would be hesitant to take on the extra role of mentor, especially with the ‘dual burden’ already in play; what benefits are there to being a mentor?
Kerrie: Introvert mentors have been known to come out of their shell and extroverts to refine their approach to introverts. However, the most valuable insight for a mentor is exploring and gaining insight into a different gender or generational level. This leads to a better-informed decision-making process.
Mentoring is a learning alliance and definitely not a one size fits all. Hence, the importance of skills and the right matching. In the words of mentoring industry guru, Professor David Clutterbuck “highly effective mentoring programs deliver substantial learning for over 95% of mentees and 80% of mentors”. Moreover, a study into Sun Microsystems showed mentors were six times more likely to be promoted.
And finally, since we are all now sold on mentoring – if you could pick anyone past or present to be your mentor, who would it be?
Zoe: For me, this would be Mary Portas. I think she is incredible. She lost her mum at 16, her dad at 18, but became a Board member of Harvey Nicholas before she turned 30. She has since written two books, which are gold dust, and I think she is a raging success!
Magella: Those who know me well know that I’m a bit of a space geek… Jocelyn Bell Burnell is my dream mentor! She was a research student at Cambridge in the 1960’s, at a time where it was almost unheard of for women to be in scientific or mathematical fields of study, and made what is now described as one of the 20th Century’s greatest astronomical discoveries – pulsars. For many years it was her supervisor Antony Hewish who received credit for the discovery, even winning the Nobel Prize for Physics for it in 1974 – Jocelyn wasn’t even included in the citation.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell broke into a field that didn’t welcome her and went on to make a discovery that changed our understanding of the universe. Even after receiving such a knock back, she went on to continue her research and, in 2018, won the Special Breakthrough Price in Fundamental Physics, the full £2.3million prize money for which was donated to help female, minority and refugee students seeking to become physics researchers. What a woman!
Both are amazing choices, there really are so many inspiring women to pick from.
If you’re looking to implement a mentoring scheme in your office, reach out to Head Mentor Kerrie and the Sinclair Dorman team at www.sinclairdorman.com
Or, to support your organisation’s diversity objectives– reach out to Magella & Zoe for expert Finance & Technology recruitment.
Magella Burnett | Manager – Charities & Not-for-Profit
Direct: +44 (0)20 7019 8837
Zoe Green | Consulting across Technology, Digital, and Data
Direct: +44 (0)20 7019 8827
Kerrie Dorman | Head Mentor at Sinclair Dorman
 ‘There is 95% coverage of this talent pool based on our inferred gender data for LinkedIn members in this talent pool. Less than 1% could be identified as another gender identity, so we have shown gender composition using only male and female data points.’
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