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I sometimes find myself in a difficult situation – I receive on average one request per day about becoming a mentor. This is flattering and I always want to ‘help’ – but I often don’t think I am qualified. I happily share from my experience and what I have learned (which I do by blogging and speaking), however it is simply not possible to mentor 300 people each year.

On this basis I attended an insightful event hosted by EY Office Managing Partner Lynn Kraus. She put together a great panel to talk about “Sponsoring the next generation of leaders”. The panel included The Honourable Anna Bligh (CEO of YWCA NSW and former QLD premier) and Christine Holgate (CEO Blackmores,) and was facilitated by renowned journalist Catherine Fox.

I listened intently – looking for an answer to my own special situation.

Here is some of the gold:

  • Mentors come and go from people’s lives – depending on the circumstances at the time. It is often rare to have a ‘mentor’ for life. We all need role models and we can often get the insights we are looking for from a distance.
  • Mentors can be both inside and outside an organization – they can come from anywhere in the community.
  • There needs to be some level of ‘chemistry’ or rapport for the relationship to really work. Trust and respect are paramount. It helps if there is some connection.
  • Setting expectations and a particular outcome (ie a goal) also works to focus the conversation and maximize the benefits for both parties.
  • It is important to leave the ‘mentorship’ with integrity and trust – perhaps a dinner or lunch to celebrate the achievement of the goals. Something to symbolize the end of the arrangement.
  • A mentor can learn and get value from the mentorship as the old proverb says “The teacher learns when they teach.

There are many industry bodies that have formal mentoring programs – Company Directors, AHRI, and Institute of Marketing to name a few.

Mentorship is extremely rewarding no matter where one fits in the ‘eco system’. It was inspiring to hear the role that a ‘big sister’ has as part of the YWCA Big Brother Big Sister program – and her impact on a young life – by being a consistent mature friend.

Though it was not discussed specifically in the session I have also found that peer-to-peer support can be equally rewarding. I am involved with Entrepreneurs Organization – which does just that. And Business Chicks has many and varied events offering members opportunities to meet and share experiences with peers.

Christine shared some particular statistics (I did not get the source). 80% of women feel that they are some how ‘disadvantaged’ in their place of work compared to opportunities available to their male peers. This number is reduced by 70% when they have a ‘sponsor’ or ‘mentor’ in a senior role who they believe has their best interests at heart. (If someone knows the source can you let me know).

Well done Lynn and EY for hosting this event. It has helped me consider how I can best support those who approach me and also what I seek from mentors too,


Reader Interactions


  1. Abolutely Naomi!
    Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, but women have so much to offer each other. Young women don’t seem to be surrounded by the same kinds of networks as young men (football teams, school old boys etc) in their early careers, and don’t see the value of mentoring and networking until they get older.
    I’m a passionate supporter of Girl Guides — an organisation like YWCA that sees what a huge difference it can make to support girls and young women. Starting as young as 5, they work together, take turns leading their peers, and see older girls in a positive setting acting as real tangible role models.
    Also, Women of Substance is an initiative of Girl Guides Queensland, that involves a Mentoring Program to introduce young women to adults who can act as role models, mentors and sponsors for them. More than 70 young women will be looking for a female mentor to attend our 2014 Mentoring Breakfast in Brisbane in October and I invite women to “give back” and help the next generation of women leaders with a leg up.
    Women from any profession or vocation are welcome to contact me to find out more.

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