Mentoring- a Catalyst for Empowerment

December 11, 2023by Carina Furlong0

Recently while delivering a programme l got asked a question ‘what is the difference between mentoring and sponsorship’. My quickest answer was ‘one develops your career and one accelerates it, someone talks with you in mentoring and someone talks about you in sponsoring’. You need both for sustained career progression. The definition of Mentoring that l subscribe to is

“Mentoring involves listening with empathy, sharing experience (usually mutually), professional friendship, developing insight through reflection, being a sounding board, and encouraging” David Clutterbuck

Lately l have been reflecting on the role and impact mentoring can have on an individuals career progression. Over the years my experience with mentoring has been diverse and rich, spanning various forms and settings. Below are a couple of nuggets outlining my own reflections and relationship with mentoring.

  • 1-1 Mentoring My first experience with understanding the impact and value of mentoring relationships was back in 2012 when l joined Cherie Blair Foundation for Women as a mentor on their Mentoring Women In Business Programme supporting female entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries. I was brought through a training programme that would support me in my understanding of a mentoring relationship encompassing roles, boundaries and expectations. This was a real grounding for me. The individual’s l was matched up were extraordinary and being able to work over a 12 month period with someone on a 1-1 basis was something special. It allowed me to witness their remarkable resilience and determination as they overcame significant obstacles in their entrepreneurial journey.

  •  Mentoring Research–  In 2015 as part of my role as President of PWN Dublin l travelled to Milan to the launch of METOTEM Project results. Research which was co-funded by the European Union made up of men and women from 20 different nationalities over 4 European countries spanning two years encompassing a series of Roundtable/Workshops and Mentoring. The overarching objective of the research was to see mentoring as a tool toward empowerment with the overall vision to make workplaces more meritocratic, inclusive and gender balanced. It emphasized the role of women mentors as mirrors, role models, and inspirations for younger colleagues, highlighting the impact of mentorship on gender balance and inclusivity in the workplace.

  • Mentoring events: Feeling very inspired after Milan l returned to Dublin and shared this research at an PWN Dublin event kindly hosted in Davy in 2016 ‘Mentoring for Character, Connection and Competence’. It was at this event l distinctly remember participants sharing how mentoring did not have to be a structured programme or a formal relationship it could also be informal conversations with people in your network at a pivotal time in one’s career. This resonated with me.

  • Speed mentoring– I was asked back in 2019 to join a speed mentoring event where mentors were given key areas to speak and illicit conversations at a variety of tables with a bell going every 5 minutes. The topics of the evening included assertiveness & confidence building, career management and sponsorship, effective influencing & political savviness, benefits of a diverse leadership team and maintaining employee engagement. My memories again of this event were of pure enjoyment. To see the appetite among attendees for progression was impressive along with the quality of their questions and conversations, l was pretty much blown away.

  •  Mentoring feedback: In 2021 during my time with board of PWN Global , 1,322 individuals went through city network mentoring programmes globally. I was struck by some of the feedback mentees submitted from their experience of the programmes. The impact these programmes had on individuals during a very difficult period was phenomenal, the stories shared, the results attained along with the cross cultural connections and collaborations was inspiring.

  •   Organisational mentoring programmes Over the last few years l have worked with organisations to develop a mentoring culture as bolt on to their talent development programmes and l have seen the value being created in nurturing female talent pipelines. On a visit to Katowice in Poland in 2019, l spent a day with a global organisation supporting them in their event ‘Mentoring and Networking for Career Success’ . They shared compelling results of their global mentoring programme and the impact it has had on their female talent pipeline and increasing the number of women in senior positions.

  • Group Mentoring :More recently l have been involved in PWN Dublins group mentoring programme in 2022 and 2023 as a group mentor. This was something different as I had never been involved in structured group mentoring programme. I cannot explain the level of growth l experienced though my involvement in these programmes along with the opportunity to experience reverse mentoring. It was a win win all round and so delighted to have connected with the individuals in my groups. Above picture was taken in 2022 when we were hosted by the Lord Mayor of Dublin in the Mansion house celebrating the success of PWN Dublins group mentoring programmes.

My experience has taught me the multifaceted nature of mentoring and its profound impact on individual growth, gender balance in the workplace, and the development of a mentoring culture within organisations. It’s clear that mentoring is not just a one-time event but a continuous process that can lead to sustained career progression and empowerment for all involved.

Carina Furlong

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