Plan B is Working

When Kate, of UKHospitality, Holly, of Odgers Berndtson, Emma, of BT Sport, and myself originally met to discuss what would become the Plan B mentoring programme, we were all aware of how balanced boards perform better than non-balanced boards in terms of Ebitda delivery. We wanted more businesses to have women on their boards because it makes commercial sense – not just because it’s the “right thing to do” and not just in non-executive director roles but in executive roles as well.

Female non-executive directors are in demand in our sector and if a company wants a 50:50 interview list for executive, managing director, chief executive or chairman positions, there aren’t always enough talented women available to fill the list. We wanted this to change and for masses of brilliant women who are good enough, and deserving enough, to be given the opportunity to be interviewed for board-level roles.

We asked ourselves how we could develop senior female talent so they would be ready and capable to be considered for board roles. Emma suggested speed-mentoring as a way forward. We weren’t sure how this would work but knew it had worked in other sectors so were willing to give it a go and learn from the experience.

We held speed-mentoring sessions on two nights in late January, with about 14 mentors and 16 mentees at each. Our mentors (men and women) all held board-level positions and our mentees, on the whole, were one to two steps away from board-level roles. At the end of the evening we asked mentors and mentees who they wanted to work with and have now matched partners so each mentor has one or two mentees. It is now down to them to make the mentoring process a success. Each partnership will work in a different way and suit the needs of both parties – it could be via Skype, face-to-face meetings or phone calls and as informal or formal as they like, lasting as long as the process remains useful and valuable to both sides.

The feedback from the two events has been fantastic.

“The evening was smooth. You knew where you needed to be and when and it was great there were several mentees available during the break so you got to talk to other women looking to progress, not just mentors. It was structured with regards to timing but also very relaxed.”

“Great event. I felt honoured to be a in room with so many successful and inspirational people.”

“I think the key benefits are to take time out of the day-to-day to reflect, meet inspirational mentors and like-minded peers.”

“It was great to meet so many people in the industry. I think the structure of the event was spot on – 15 minutes seemed like a good amount of time to get to know people.”

“It was very encouraging to meet so many ambitious women. The range and difference between the six mentors I spoke to was brilliantly broad, possibly all some had in common was success.”

“All the mentors were top quality! It was great to meet a range of people. Compared with superficial networking events it was great to speak seriously with people immediately.”

“It was a rare opportunity to not only meet inspiring senior figureheads in the industry but also share experiences and stories with our peers, which I think is equally as important. It was eye opening and a well-rounded experience. I loved the idea nobody knew anything about each other before the event as it meant you had to get to know one another in a short space of time. There is nothing else like this and, when I speak to my family and friends, they think it’s an amazing scheme. I agree. I feel lucky to be part of it!”

We were all blown away by the success of the sessions and encouraged that so many women have found mentors to help them on their journey to attain board-level roles.

Our next three speed-mentoring events take place on 14, 15 and 21 May in London. If you are interested in being a mentor, email PlanB@odgersberndtson.com or, if you would like to be mentored in your ambition to move into a board-level role, email me on ann@elliottsagency.com

By Ann Elliott.