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Mentoring, Confidence and Career Progression

Imagine if Serena Williams hadn’t been mentored or didn’t have training drills? Would she have won 21 Grand Slams, 6 Australian Opens, 6 US Opens, 6 Wimbledon’s be one of, if not the, best female tennis player, ever?

Imagine if Daisy Pearce, AFL Women star hadn’t turned up for training? Would she have been the AFL’s women’s inaugural No.1 draft pick in 2013,  Melbourne’s inaugural captain, best and fairest winner, and arguably the first female superstar of the AFL female game?

It’s fairly incomprehensible that these women wouldn’t go to training, be trained and mentored.

So why are women not being mentored in a systematic way in our organisations? When we know that the right mentoring and sponsorship can unlock potential and superior performance for both the woman and the organisation that employs her?

One of the (many) barriers to women advancing in the workplace is a lack of confidence.

A major factor in removing the confidence barrier is to be mentored and sponsored. Worryingly, there a systematic lack of of mentoring and sponsorship in an organised, disciplined way in Australian organisations.

What is mentorship and sponsorship? How about I talk about what it’s not? It’s not a regular half an hour or hour with your manager to go through a laundry list of actions, decisions or tasks. That’s important for business planning. But its not career advancing. It is not a chit-chat which commences with ‘so how are you?’ That important for rapport building. But it’s not training. It’s not a one way conversation about what you should or should not be doing. I guess that’s important, to someone! But it’s not mentoring.

Mentoring is: a developmental partnership through which one person shares knowledge, skills, information, and perspective to foster the personal and professional growth of someone else. The power of mentoring is that it creates a one-of-a-kind opportunity for collaboration, goal achievement, and problem solving.

Women (and men) are not being effectively mentored.

The research that has prompted this article has identified that many women (and men) are not receiving the benefit of being effectively mentored in the workplace. When I speak at an event, publish articles or attend networking events, women invariably come up to me or write to me and tell me they do not have a mentor, nor do they regularly have conversations that build their strategic, business and financial acumen. Nor do they know what to do about it.

They know that this lack of mentoring and sponsorship is impacting their confidence, their career and limiting them from advancing. Its disheartening for the women. For the organisations that employ these women, its foolish.  These organisations are not tapping into the productivity these women will generate when they are engaged and committed which will only come about when investment to increase their skills and advance their career is made.

53% of women are not mentored.

My research has told me women in the workplace say that one of the main barriers to gender equality in leadership, aside from bias, is a lack of confidence. Targeted discussion and running many, many leadership training forums uncovered that a lack of business acumen, specifically ‘the numbers’ is a major contributor to women lacking the confidence for more senior, strategic roles. Women in the workplace have told me:

  1. 53% do not receive mentoring or coaching of any kind
  2. 66% rate their people leaders coaching skills as poor or non-existent
  3. 90% say not receiving coaching, mentoring or training has a moderate to material impact on their happiness and engagement at work
  4. 40% are mildly to very dissatisfied with their career progression
  5. 64% are mildly to very dissatisfied with their people leaders approach to their career planning

This data should alarm the organizations that are serious about advancing women.

The 4 “No Surprise” fundamentals about developing women

1. Mentoring and sponsorship can create a career pathway. Employers who provide support such as formal mentoring, sponsorship and career planning are more likely to increase the advancement of women and decrease the female talent drain.

2. The right training/development ends the leadership lottery for women. By actively developing and promoting inclusive leaders across your organization, you will eliminate the lottery women encounter for career progression. Frontline AND middle managers determine the day-to-day experience of women in organisations. Gender equality awareness and training underpins inclusive leadership.

3. Female leadership development training helps build the skill sets women need: McKinsey has shown through interviewing 250 C-Suite women that some of the attributes they most relied upon were resilience, grit, and confidence. Quality, regular training and development can unlock and foster these attributes in women.

4. Being mentored can increase happiness and productivity. Happy workers are productive workers. Former Westpac CEO Gail Kelly has been quoted as saying “creating a happy workplace is crucial to building a culture where people are willing to go the extra mile for no extra pay because of team loyalty, professional commitment and personal satisfaction.” Discretionary effort from happy engaged people can up to 15% increase in productivity.

There are more statistics than I have had hot dinners about the benefits of an inclusive culture and the value that can be created for a company that has greater gender diversity.

My purpose in life is to advance women in business and sport.

I founded Advancing Women to purposefully and deliberately set about making a difference for women in workplaces by using these 4 fundamentals as building blocks to solve wicked problems for women in the workplace.

Workplaces typically have two wicked problems:

Problem 1. There are not enough women in the organisation, at all levels. I diagnose, design and importantly deliver an inclusion action plan to advance women and help the organisation prosper.

Problem 2. When the women (employees, players, members, supporters) in the organisation need leadership and business skills development. To advance women, so we all prosper. I don’t “fix” women, I provide them with the roadmap to successfully navigate the workplace.

Here is what I know.

I know that by sharing my skills, experience and leadership programs that I can accelerate the advancement of women and increase the productivity and prosperity of business.

And I know that the women I  mentor feel more confident, more accomplished and are more successful after they spend time with me. Just ask them. 

I know the organisations that I work with have women that feel more engaged, valued and have a career path to aspire to. Which means both the organisation and the women who work there are better off.

This article was originally published by Advancing Women, and authored by Michelle Redfern

About the Founder

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.