Late mentoring for women hampering diversity efforts says O2 Director of Human Resources

Britain’s bosses must begin mentoring female staff at a much more junior level if it is to see an improvement in gender diversity.

That’s according to O2 Director of Human Resources and HR Grapevine Advisory Board member, Ann Pickering.

“I’m not a believer in quotas. I don’t know any women who want to be promoted because of their gender. They want to be promoted because of their ability. To do that there are various things you can do.”

Pickering advocates the use of role models and mentors within organisations following her own experience.

“In my own career, the thing that helped me, I had a great role model in the early 2000s. She was a real mentor to me and took me under her wing and it was really good for me to see a woman in action in a man’s world. I worked in IT services at the time.

“The next step is to provide opportunities and chances. That same woman gave me an opportunity. My boss went on maternity leave for a year and she gave me the chance to cover for my boss. That really helped my self-confidence. That was a great moment for me.”

She adds that this can be done in companies of any size. “Role modelling can happen in small and large organisations, those people don’t need to work in your company, they can be from outside. If very senior woman in the business gave people a chance we’d be in a better position. It’s also vital to ensure line managers understand how important it is to have a real diversity of thinking and leadership styles.”

Pickering hopes that with improved mentoring confidence will rise among young women in business.

“The challenge I see is a lot of women have self-confidence issues and don’t feel comfortable putting their hands up or putting themselves forward and that’s what companies need to address and we need to look at getting in at quite a junior level and supporting young women at the start of their career, not just waiting until they are knocking on the boardroom door.

“There’s something about creating a pipeline of power, supporting women at an early stage of career and building their confidence then.”

Without this she warns women will continue to believe that senior management are out of reach, as revealed by research released yesterday.

“We need to make sure that we make the most of all our talent, irrespective of gender. If we’ve got women who, for whatever reason, think they haven’t got the chance developing their career, I think businesses are missing out on a very talented part of the population. We really need to harness the skills and potential of everybody in order to create successful British businesses.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user washingtonwomeninpr

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