WWID event on The Value of Mentoring


On Tuesday we hosted the second of our networking events for women working in development. The event, co-hosted by CDR and BDO LLP, focused on the value of mentoring.


CDR would like to thank everyone for their participation and enthusiasm, and the great insights from the panel:

  • Baroness Anne Jenkin of Kennington, co-founder of Women2Win and Conservative Friends of International Development;

  • Allison Kahn, Mentoring Programme Director at the Cherie Blair Foundation;

  • Jo Gilbey, Partner at BDO LLP.


The panellists shared key lessons from their involvement in mentoring schemes and spoke of the importance of supporting and encouraging women. Some key points from the discussion:


· Baroness Jenkin spoke of her work to establish Women2Win and acknowledged the positive increase in the number of women at senior levels in government and management. She was clear on the potential for mentoring initiatives to further increase this presence while reminding us of how crucial individual resilience continues to be. There is still much room for improvement, and mentoring can contribute through building mutual support and encouraging collaboration.  


· Allison provided an insight into the Cherie Blair Foundation’s mentoring programme and how they aim to support and empower women entrepreneurs, thus having a larger impact on their families and communities. Allison described the mentor/mentee relationship as a ‘two-way street’ where both parties benefit and achieve outcomes. These relationships allow the mentee to build their confidence, skills, and sustain and grow their enterprise (93% of mentees said that they gained skills). As a key indicator of success for the programme, Allison revealed that 80% of graduate mentees ended up becoming mentors, creating a positive learning cycle.


· Jo praised the BDO mentoring programme and its impacts, herself a beneficiary and active member of the programme, highlighting how important it is to find a compatible mentor so that collaborative relationships based on trust can flourish. The programme is an outcome of focus groups BDO set up to address a lack of women representation in management positions. She is a strong believer that we need more visible female role models and more mentors. In line with this belief and commitment, BDO is also a member of the 30% Club, an initiative aiming at achieving 30% of women on UK boards.


It became clear from the panel’s presentation and contributions from the audience that a number of key factors were essential for the success of a mentoring relationship. These include:

  • A commitment from the mentor and mentee and a period to build rapport and trust;

  • Clear guidelines about what will be covered during the mentoring relationship;

  • A strong planning stage to defining what success means for mentees;

  • Skill-based or topic-based matching can be a good solution for women searching for coaching in different fields;

  • Training for mentors in the skills and techniques of mentoring


The panel’s presentation was followed by a question and answer session and opportunity for informal networking over lunch. Many of the attendees were keen to know how in their companies and industries they could set up or facilitate mentoring schemes, and particularly how to encourage cross-firm collaboration. It was widely agreed that cross-firm mentoring schemes might prove helpful at defining career next steps.


It was great to see our women working in development networking event grow in numbers and strength with representation from all parts of the sector. We are intending to host a next event in the first quarter of next year and look forward to welcoming everyone back to continue the conversation, exchange views, discuss challenges and opportunities for women working in development.

If you would like more information or to get more involved in developing the programme, please click here

Centre for Development Results Ltd. A company limited by guarantee, no 10010584. Registered Office: 1 Northfield Road, Reading RG1 8AH

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