Mentoring Initiative Looks to Help Emerging Female Leaders in the Workplace
20 October 2017 at 5:08 pm
A mentoring initiative for emerging female leaders in Australia is set to launch in Melbourne, aiming to help young women tackle professional challenges in the workplace.
Mentor Walks Australia began in Sydney in 2016, through the work of co-founders and Australian businesswomen Adina Jacobs and Bobbi Mahlab.
The program brings together young female professionals and pairs them with mentors, who are experienced leaders and executives across a range of industries, including finance, tech, media and not for profits.
The initiative is modelled on the Mentor Walk Asia program started in Beijing in 2013 by Michelle Garnaut.
After its launch in Sydney in 2016, it expanded to Brisbane earlier this year and will now begin in Melbourne.
Co-founder Bobbi Mahlab said: “Since our Sydney launch we’ve had over 400 women walk with us and start their work day with more clarity and some real-world solutions. It’s been fantastic to see the impact it’s having.
“Our walks are about making real immediate change. We want to help more women to advance their careers by getting advice for challenges they’re facing now, such as asking for a pay rise, influencing executive teams, managing up or getting buy-in from investors.”
One of the coordinators of the Melbourne launch is Jemma Wong. She told Pro Bono News that the program, which entails one hour walks each month around the Royal Botanic Gardens, was an opportunity for young women to connect with experienced industry leaders.
“Effectively Mentor Walks brings together a small group of really empowered strong women who are leaders in their industry, to share their knowledge and experience with women on the rise in their careers,” Wong said.
“What we tend to find is that a lot of the more senior female mentors get approached all the time for mentorships, but it’s really hard to fit in their diary when they’re got a million things to do and are leading a business.
“So this is an opportunity for these women once a month, to come along for a walk where there’s no onus or expectation that the connection or interaction continues after that walk. It allows these young women on the rise to have major problems in their career solved.”
Wong said the program suited mentees who had tangible professional challenges they needed advice or guidance on.
“It’s really targeting young women who are mid-level in their careers… so at the manager level or at the junior executive level. We don’t target university students at this stage, because we want to make sure the problems that we’re solving are clear problems that are happening within the workplace, rather than about how to land their first job,” she said.
“It can be across all industries as well. We have mentors and mentees from banking and finance, to beauty and fashion, and tech and entrepreneurship. This is good because we get a diverse range of problems and different types of solutions.
“We group and pair mentors with mentees strategically, based on the challenge the mentees put forward on their application. And we put up to three mentees with one mentor, so you don’t just get the experience from the mentor, but it’s also about creating and co-solving across the mentees as well.”
“We want to create a network of really empowered women, who are championing themselves within their careers.”
Wong, who is a strategic marketer and currently the head of audience growth at the AFL, is also one of the Melbourne mentors for the program. She said she would look to help young mentees channel their confidence to get ahead in the workplace.
“What I tend to find is that a lot of women are trying to make that elevation in their career. And they might have that confidence in terms of being sure they’re on the right path, but they don’t know how to channel that confidence into influencing stakeholders or their managers to enter a more senior role,” she said.
“It’d be great to talk to the mentees about how they can activate their voice, how they can assert a certain presence within the workplace, and how they don’t need to apologise for the role that they’re playing within their management teams.
“But I think it’s also good to create a shared space and a safe space for these women to talk about these issues, because they may not have the right support network to air out their thoughts. So it’s about offering a different perspective for them to see things through a different lens.”
She also said that mentors such as herself, would get something rewarding out of the program.
“Women want to support other women and I know in my career at the very beginning, there wasn’t a lot of advice that was available for me. I really had to build strong relationships with women in other industries to try and cherry pick different pieces of advice,” Wong said.
“And if something like this was available to me the first time I was a manager, it would have been so helpful. So I think just giving back and helping women who might be lost or a bit unsure of themselves or just unsure of how they can navigate the next step, is really rewarding.”