Get yourself a mentor today

Jagtar Singh

09 / 3 / 2016 2.44pm

In support of International Women's Day (IWD), the diversity and inclusion team is releasing a new blog throughout this week on what IWD means to leaders within the NHS. Jagtar Singh, chair of Coventry and Warwick NHS Partnership Trust, discusses the importance of having a mentor in his post. 

Get yourself a mentor today

Author: Jagtar Singh OBE, chair of Coventry and Warwick NHS Partnership Trust 

Thinking about International Women's Day recently reminded me of one of my favourite quotes:  "From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come". These are words that were uttered by the founder of Sikhism, Sri Guru Nanak Dev in about 1499.

In Sikhism, the Holy Scriptures have clearly stated that the Sikh woman has always been regarded as an equal with man and has all the rights and privileges enjoyed by a man.  Yet the challenge remains in society to make gender equality a reality particularly in the work place. Having worked in the fire service for over 30 year and now in NHS for close to 10 years I have long championed the key role of mentoring. As someone who has benefited from mentors I am keen to see emerging female leaders and women already at senior level work with mentors of their choice to help support them in their roles and help their progression. My advice to women is 'get yourself a mentor '.

I became particular interested in providing mentoring for women when I heard about the 'Paula Principle' developed by Dr Tom Schuller  a few years ago. He has consistently argued that instead of being promoted to a point of incompetence, women are not being promoted despite their competence. He put this down to five main reasons: discrimination; structural problems, such as childcare responsibilities; psychology, and a possibility that some women don't have the confidence to put themselves forward; lack of network connections, and knowing people in high places for a leg-up; and the simple choice to avoid a stressful working life. I accept the research and the underlying factors but the key to successful mentoring in my experience is also the relationship and understanding the mentor and mentee have about the benefits of mentoring.

Reflecting on how I have provided both formal and informal support I can point to two different types of mentoring. Firstly mentoring that involves providing career advice and guidance and secondly helping to build visibility through mentorship to bring to attention talented female leaders. This was done through for example on many occasions identifying projects that the mentee could get involved in and in doing so achieve recognition.  At the same time mentoring to me was also about raising confidence and ability to cope with pressures and demands, thus allowing women to progress through the organisation and take advantage of job opportunities and manage power relationships often involving other men.

Finally my experience has indicated mentoring can not only significantly improve women's chances of success in management, it accelerates their professional development and provides them with greater job satisfaction.  Finally my message to all women on international Women's day is to 'get yourself a mentor quick' it really helps!

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