Mentoring Female Talent

On October 10th at the BT Tower, organised in partnership with UKHospitality, BT Sport, Odgers Berndston and Elliotts will be holding a VIP event to launch a new industry initiative, The Leadership Mentoring Programme, to a group of brilliant senior people (men and women) who have said they would like to mentor women working in the Leisure and Hospitality sector to help them move into senior leadership positions.

We have all heard a tremendous amount lately about boards wanting to interview 50:50 shortlists, indeed PWC recently announced that they have banned ‘male only shortlists’ and are working towards ‘50/50 shortlists’ for all direct future recruitment campaigns for executive positions. This is perhaps because they appreciate that companies in the top quartile for executive level gender diversity perform significantly better than those in the bottom quartile for profitability and long-term value creation.

This PWC ambition, many would argue though, is much easier said than done – as one commentator on the announcement, said;

“In some cases, a company’s talent pool for a given position will be very small and will require incredibly rare skill and experience that may only be possessed by a finite amount of people. If all of the candidates in question are male … and the shortlist is then rejected or the process is prolonged as a result, I would argue PWC are running the risk of missing out on the most (objectively quantifiable) talented person for the position in question.”

So, is this a bit of a Catch 22 situation? Many companies really do want to achieve the govt’s target of 30% of women on boards but is female talent available to fill this need? Is it possible to really achieve a 50:50 interview list with men and women of equal skill and talent or will the ‘female’ side be filled just for the sake of achieving the quotas? Is the interview team also balanced 50:50 and able to overcome potentially unconscious bias?

An article in HBR August 2014 stated;

“You’ve probably heard the following statistic: Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. The finding comes from a Hewlett Packard internal report, and has been quoted in  Lean In,  The Confidence Code and dozens of articles. It’s usually invoked as evidence that women need more confidence.  As one Forbes article put it, “Men are confident about their ability at 60%, but women don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list.” ”

Indeed, I am constantly amazed by highly talented women who say to me that they couldn’t possibly be considered for a role when it’s perfectly clear they would be brilliant in it. Confidence would appear to be crucial.

Our intention in setting up this initiative then is to provide women who want to be considered for senior management roles with outstanding mentoring, advice and motivation from objective and supportive mentors to help them get there. We want them to believe they can be included in 50: 50 shortlists because, if they believe theirs is a valid application, then they are half way there.

It is only half way there though. As one person said who responded to our initial ‘interest’ email;

“Happy to meet and discuss, but the more “women” only things you do the more I think it alienates them (men) and creates resentment. I think you would be better focused on teaching Chairmen of the benefits of women on boards, because there are indeed many”

I think he is right. First though we want to help women build their skills, confidence and abilities so they warrant inclusion on these lists.

Interestingly, in April 2018, The Times announced their Top 50 Employers for Women 2018 – their assessment focused on transparency, the root causes behind gaps, what companies were doing to identify and address these structural issues and the impact of these actions. Sodexo was the only company in our sector to be included in the Top 50 because, as they said, “Our research, carried out among our 50,000 employees, shows that where our management teams are gender balanced our business is safer, more profitable and colleagues are more engaged.”

There are some amazing women leading businesses in our sector – and we could probably name them all. I would like to get to a stage when we can’t name them all because there are too many

If you would like to become a mentor and attend the event on the 10th October please email me on ann@elliottsagency. com.

Your commitment in 2019 would be to attend one three-hour event only- we will talk about the structure of the programme at the launch. We want to make mentoring as easy as possible for both mentees and mentors whilst making a significant difference to the career prospects of those being mentored.

Written by Ann Elliott.