2011 research by the global consultancy Accenture conducted in 29 countries among 3 400 executives revealed some interesting information. Although the main findings of the study were around high levels of dissatisfaction with current jobs, a more detailed look at the study reveals what women thought had made a difference in their careers.
The most common means of advancing themselves included:
- Further training and skills development – which was nearly always rated as having actually helped;
- Taking on additional responsibilities – which helped more often than not;
- Asking for a raise, promotion or job change – which helped about half the time;
- Active networking – which helped most of the time;
- Taking part in a mentoring program – which helped most of the time.
Despite much talk about equal opportunities for women, 45% of respondents said that their organisation did not have specific targets for the number of women in leadership roles. 15% said that the organisation did have targets, while 40% were not aware of any targets. It also seems that the perception is still rife that women have to work harder and longer than men to gain career advancement – 68% of women, as compared to 55% of men, believed that they had got to their current position due to hard work and long hours.
It seems that access to mentoring programs is not as widespread as is often thought – only 21% of women said that their organisation had a formal mentoring program, but when such a program is available, 76% of women did participate in it. There is a generational difference between the use of mentoring – while 25% of Baby-Boomers said they had a formal or informal mentor, 32% of Generation X and 37% of Generation Y do use mentoring of some sort.
Respondents reported that mentors helped them mostly with advice and guidance, and about half of the respondents had been helped with planning career moves. The mentor acted as a sounding board for somewhat less than half the respondents, and also in some cases actively sponsored or supported the mentee for promotion. This finding reflects the predominance of North American respondents in the study as the mentoring model used in North America emphasises mainly sponsorship mentoring rather than the developmental mentoring model used more often in Europe and South Africa.
Accenture consultants, in discussing the results, remarked that companies could help people build their careers by creating a culture of mentoring as well as by developing diverse teams that can provide new experiences for team members
This article was originally written for the Women in IT Mentoring Programme.