Let’s #ChoosetoChallenge Mentoring Norms

Published 17th Mar 2021

Mentoring is a concept that is often discussed. The benefits for career development are obvious and an effective mentor can make a big difference to one’s professional growth. Today, the majority of organisations offer an internal mentoring programme to their employees.  

However, one aspect that is not widely explored is what type of mentoring, or how many mentors, would be most beneficial. For an individual the first step to finding an answer to this is to consider your mentoring objectives. Why do you want a mentor? What issues, challenges and roadblocks are you looking to overcome, and what kind of insights and knowledge are you hoping to gain?

Once you think about the objectives, it will become apparent that while mentors from within an organization can do a wonderful job, sometimes an external perspective can be a game changer. It may serve as an eye-opener to many possibilities that may not have been considered before.

We know that systemic inequalities and biases have meant that though women comprise almost 70% of the global PR workforce at entry level, the number is reversed when it comes to the boardroom and leadership at the highest level. At Global Women in PR (GWPR) one of our key goals is to support and mentor younger women to help them become the next generation of leaders. And we recognize that in today’s world growth is inextricably linked to taking a global perspective and finding creative solutions to problems at hand. 

It was with this approach that we organized the GWPR International Speed Mentoring Day on International Women’s Day on March 8th this year. We leveraged our international network to identify 100+ of the world’s most senior women in PR & Communications and invited them to be mentors for this activity. We were overwhelmed by the response from these busy women, who were really happy to schedule one, or two, 30 minute speed mentoring sessions with women from a different country in their diaries.

In total over 200 mid-career PR women participated as mentees in cross border sessions on IWD. Mentors and mentees were matched based on their industry sectors and shared interests and, in keeping with the theme for IWD, they were asked to focus on what they would #ChooseToChallenge in their career.

During these sessions, mentees were encouraged to ask questions they may have hesitated to ask before, introduced to best practice and new concepts and generally encouraged to challenge the status quo. They came away motivated to do more with their careers and were inspired by these role models, who have already made it to the top. Mentors, on the other hand, had a chance to connect with bright young talent from another country and get a better understanding of the challenges faced by the next generation of leaders. 

The feedback from both parties has been phenomenal. The exchange of ideas, the opportunity to connect across cultures and markets was both novel and effective. This initiative is a reminder that when women support other women, we can make a real difference.

Ipshita Sen is President of GWPR India and led the GWPR-IWD initiative.