Amplifying Voices: Forging Change for a Gender Equal World Through Mentoring


12th March 2021

Read time

15 minutes

STEM - girl smiling in front of machines

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2021, Connectr hosted an interactive discussion to explore what more is needed from employers today to drive a gender equal world. Whilst some progression has been made, there is still a need for businesses to better champion and drive gender equality in the workplace, for women of all backgrounds and industries.

A key focus of our discussion centred around mentoring as one of the practical solutions to implement when attracting, supporting, and nurturing female school leavers, apprentices, graduates and women further into their careers to step up into senior positions.

We welcomed women in industry speakers, Claire Mortimer, Head of UK Learning at ThalesSusi Farnworth, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at Engineering UK, and co-founders of, Lift As You ClimbElizabeth Jenkin and Jane Gibbons to lead the discussion. Here are some of the insights shared:

 What do you feel empowers you in the workplace?

“I think of myself in a triangle – there is my personal life, my work life, and my community. When I think about what empowers me at work, it’s being able to be my whole self, and that includes all those three points. The rest includes clear responsibilities, to know what is expected of me, and having work that helps me grow.”

Elizabeth Jenkin, Lift As You Climb

“One of the things that really empowered me was when I took the time to understand who I really was. I think that’s a huge development piece that shouldn’t go unnoticed, and understanding who you are, what you stand for, how you would like to be perceived, and how want to work. There is a piece around our understanding of self and our emotional intelligence that really resonates with me.”

Claire Mortimer, Thales

What steps do employers need to take to better attract female talent in sectors where women remain underrepresented?

“We have developed an approach to reach underrepresented groups, including female students, and we fund and support schools to involve more young women in the programme. We also have a very strong focus on evaluation, and the impact these programmes have specifically on young women. We also share learnings across the sector, and have developed ‘Tomorrow’s Engineer Code Community’, designed for any organisation doing STEM outreach to collaborate in improving impact. Within our outreach, we include strong female role models, including examples of strong female engineers and young women who are inspired by science.”

Susi Farnworth, Engineering UK

“From my experience, there is so much saying and not enough doing. Around role models, you can only be what you can see – if you see more women in the workplace, or people who look like you, then you’re more likely to be attracted to that organisation and to that industry. I also think more emphasis needs to be put on recruiters when looking at attracting female talent. There is a tendency to present the talent that is assumed to be desired, and I think organisations need to challenge recruiters more to go and find women [in male-dominated industries], sell the industry to them, and tell them they do belong here.”

Elizabeth Jenkin, Lift As You Climb

What is needed from employers to better empower, develop and nurture their existing female talent?

“When looking to set up a mentoring programme or individually looking for a mentor, as a woman don’t necessarily look for another woman mentor.  A mentor for female talent doesn’t need to be another woman. Whilst that role model piece of having someone to look up to and identify with is important, championing women in business is not just for women to do, it’s for men to do too. Some great male mentors can also be reverse mentored, to understand what it’s like to be a woman in business.”

Claire Mortimer, Thales

“A critical aspect is that the organisation’s culture enables people to really grow and shine. The culture also has to be ready to accept individuals as they step into that space. It might be there is a culture of open communication and feedback, which is critical. There are also some practical things – does your organisation enable people to work flexibly? How does your organisation focus on outputs, as opposed to ‘face time’? What kind of ongoing dialogue is your organisation having with women? We don’t have a choice about who gives birth, however we do have a choice about having ongoing discussions with women about when they want to put their foot down and accelerate their career, and when they might need to step back. Having that culture of open discussion is really important.”

Jane Gibbons, Lift As You Climb

What are your top tips for organisations to drive gender equality?

Organisations listening to what women need, not making assumptions around it, and then designing programmes around what fits them and their career trajectory.

Elizabeth Jenkin, Lift As You Climb

Be curious, question why and how the organisation does things. Challenge the what ifs, champion women, be on the lookout for talent that is struggling to get through. Be brave and ask the questions – and as a woman in business, champion other women.

Claire Mortimer, Thales

To find out more about how Connectr can support mentoring for your business, and support your future and existing female talent to thrive visit here.