ARA Chicago

Closing the Gender Gap: How Mentorship Plays a Role

Here’s an astonishing, although perhaps not surprising, fact: women make up only 10% of board-level positions, but account for 45% of the global workforce. While the conversation surrounding the gender gap has gained momentum in the U.S. over the last few years, there is still limited focus on a global scale.

That may be changing, however, as initiatives like the Women’s Directorship Program, launched by Harvey Nash and The University of Hong Kong, are further developed as a way to close gender gaps, provide advancement opportunities for women and reshape the way businesses approach recruiting and hiring talent.

Those of you who are familiar with ARA know that one of ARA’s co-founders, Jane Hamner, serves as Market Director for Harvey Nash Chicago and the wider organization has been instrumental in the launch of ARA New York and ARA Seattle. Harvey Nash’s Global CEO, Albert Ellis, is also a huge proponent of diversity programs. Under his leadership, Harvey Nash has launched several initiatives to foster an inclusive workforce, including Inspire, Aspire and more.

Ellis recently discussed the Women’s Directorship Program with Bloomberg’s Yvonne Man on “First Up.” In addition to sharing insights on programs that help to reinvent the way businesses develop talent by removing gender bias, Ellis also touched on the prospects for women in the global workforce with a particular focus on Japan. Two of the points he touched on are spot on with ARA’s thinking – enlisting the help of men to make change and the importance of mentorship. Here’s a brief recap of what Ellis had to say:

Goldman Sachs indicated in a recent report that the Japanese economy could grow by 14% if women were productively engaged and promoted to leadership positions within companies. Speaking to this data point, Ellis said, “Clients and customers buying products are, by definition, going to be 50% female. So if you don’t have leaders and people on the management committees who are not female, and who can understand, your business is going to be held back.” This highlights the economic and revenue opportunities created by harnessing the diversity of perspective as women are added to the management team.

While one of the biggest challenges Ellis has faced is sourcing and recruiting talent, he laments that if businesses begin diversifying their interview panels and start widening the definition of talent, gender bias in the workforce may drastically decrease. Ellis also mentioned that in order to alleviate the centuries-old mindset of keeping women out of the workforce, men in leadership positions must take the first step to deliver change. “It has to come from the top. If the CEO brings this into his vision and describes it to his company and implements it into the workforce, it will drive this change,” said Ellis.

Along with sharing visions with employees, executives must also be available to provide mentorship to women rising in the ranks, Ellis said. As we’ve mentioned here before, mentors serve as trusted advisors, providing a sounding board for daily issues encountered on the job and sharing alternative perspectives on both problem identification and problem solving. By encouraging mentorship relationships that foster knowledge sharing between current and future executives, businesses can bring about meaningful change and may even experience greater success.

While it may take decades to fully transform and diversify the global workforce – the World Economic Forum estimates that the workplace gender gap won’t close until 2095 – there are positive shifts happening right now. As long as programs like the Women’s Directorship Program continue to flourish and create opportunities for women to obtain and excel within leadership positions, we can remain hopeful that gender bias and gender gaps will be significantly decreased for the next generation of women in the global workforce.

To listen to the entire segment on Bloomberg TV, please click here.