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Resignations down, earnings up: The power of mentoring

In the run-up to Incisive Media's Women in Investment Festival on 3 March and its Mentoring Academy session - which will address what people should look for in a mentor and how to become a mentor or mentee, Laura Miller shines the spotlight on the need for role models within financial services.

Employees who have a work mentor earn more, are more committed to their career, and will stay longer at their company - and women in investment want them in the workplace.

Some 30 years of research into the power of mentoring programmes has revealed what female employees know from experience; that mentors can be the difference between making it or not.

Ritu Vohora, investment director at M&G, said: "It is important to have positive role models and mentors who have transitioned into roles often dominated by men, for example fund managers and executive board members.

"Internal coaching and mentoring from senior leaders sharing their own experiences on how they have successfully navigated the industry helps learning, and taking advice from them can help manage career goals the right way."

Decades of studies reviewed by Dr Lauren Bidwell, an experimental psychologist specialising in decision making research, have revealed the extent of the power of mentoring.

Compared to non-mentored employees, mentored staff earn more, get promoted more often, feel more satisfied with their career, and are more committed to pursuing it.

It is not just individuals who benefit. Staff retention was found to increase by as much as 38% when mentoring programmes were put in place.

Dame Inga Beale, former CEO of Lloyds of London and the first female head in its 333-year history, said: "Role models would have helped enormously, particularly early on in my life.  They would have inspired me to aim high and be ambitious."

Mentoring describes a relationship between two people established to support the learning and development of one or both individuals. Career programmes pair someone with considerable professional experience with a person earlier in their career seeking development.

Other collaborations can help new joiners, members of an under-represented ethnic minority, those seeking skill development from an expert, or intergenerational learning.

Kim Martin, principal at asset manager Boost & Co, says the practice can help women in investment in particular feel they have the toolkit to succeed.

"That may mean negotiating pay in a performance review, having the confidence to walk into a room without feeling intimidated, giving a speech, or meeting management teams, who, nine times out of ten, are male," she reasoned.

Finance companies seeking to put in place that level of learning and development could benefit from looking at how other sectors do it, Martin explained.

"I know the female founder of a recruitment firm who hosts networking events for women who work in private equity," she added.

"She brings us together to talk openly, creating an environment in which we feel comfortable asking each other for advice, such as how to negotiate a pay rise, because women are sometimes not very good at asking for more and promoting themselves. And she asks tough questions relating to our careers.

"I find this type of mentoring really valuable, and it sparks a camaraderie that spreads throughout the whole network, too."

Martin supports the government's Women in Finance charter, aimed at encouraging companies to improve their gender balance, and the British Business Bank's initiatives to help female entrepreneurs.

But for women employed in the investment sector, there is nothing quite like having a female mentor or role model within the workplace, she said.

"Boost & Co is unusual in having a male-to-female ratio of at least 50% in each of its UK offices, and we have one male and one female partner, too.

"It is really powerful to have [partner] Sonia Powar to look up to in that role. There are still so many all-male management teams, and she often speaks about the importance of recruiting women, both to increase diversity and so that less experienced females can imagine themselves in senior roles."

"It is very valuable to have a mentor like that - a woman who makes you think: "She has done it; she has made it into that position and succeeded in her career."

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