Mentoring matters greatly but needs a rejig
A view from Laura Moorcraft

Mentoring matters greatly but needs a rejig

Goodstuff's managing partner Laura Moorcraft shares her view on the importance of mentoring in unlocking different perspectives.

Bloom’s 2018 mentoring programme gets underway this week.  A professional network for women in communications, Bloom’s vision is that our industry should be one where all women can achieve their full potential.  Mentoring alongside other initiatives can play a powerful role in realising that vision.  And it’s not just the mentees that benefit.  Mentors often learn and grow just as much as the mentees – gaining new insights into challenges others are facing and unlocking different perspectives.

The gender pay gap debate has further illuminated the need for the industry to work together, if we’re to reach the IPA’s new target of 40% of leadership positions to be held by women by 2020.  Currently in the UK, women make up more than half of junior agency staff, but this drops to 30% in leadership roles. 

Bloom, Wacl and SheSays play an important part in supporting, empowering and enabling women, but this doesn’t start and end with women. We’re at a pivotal moment for gender equality in our industry and we need to do more to involve men in the conversation and encourage everyone to explore different perspectives through mentoring.

The IPA’s mentoring scheme is "currently suspended", partly due to a mentor supply and demand issue.  Nabs’ popular ad-hoc speed mentoring event features some of adland’s big-hitters.  While over-subscribed, it appeals less to those seeking more accessible peer-to-peer advice or deeper connections.  The agency networks’ scale and resources provide the foundation for internal mentoring programmes and impressive initiatives like Omincom’s Omniwomen, a gender inclusive annual summit on International Women’s Day that has contributed to Omnicom UK already exceeding the IPA female leadership target.  Top marks. 

However, for those in the independent agency sector, scale and resource limitations mean fewer off the shelf choices when it comes to mentoring.  Not everybody wants a mentor and men are less likely than women to seek out mentors.  But what we think we want and what we need are different things, and I believe that absolutely everyone can benefit from mentoring. 

In its simplest sense, mentoring is having someone who’s got your back.  Not to be mistaken for councillors or trained coaches, mentors listen, advise and guide towards agreed goals.  One to one mentoring, peer-to-peer mentoring circles, reverse mentoring and speed mentoring are avenues we’re exploring at Goodstuff.  So, if you’re from the independent agency sector and are interested in exploring some collaborative mentoring ideas together, I’d love to hear from you.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that women gravitate towards women and men towards men when it comes to mentoring.  But now, more than ever, we need to encourage more gender integration and encourage men and women to have more open conversations about equality. 

Senior men mentoring more junior women can provide men with valuable insight into the challenges women are facing.  And we can flip that and encourage junior women to reverse mentor senior men and junior men to mentor senior women.  Challenging one another to consider different perspectives is crucial if we are to succeed in eliminating unconscious bias so that everyone can achieve their full potential, irrespective of gender.