Mind the mentoring gap: Why men are more likely to seek out career mentors

An emerging mentoring gap: new research suggests that women are less likely to find career mentors. Here's why.

Having a mentor can do wonders for your career—but it’s hard to know who to turn to, and more importantly, how to build a solid relationship with someone who could quite literally change your life. New research actually puts a number on the value mentors bring to UK employees.

According to a Paymentsense survey of 1,000 people those who have, or have had, a mentor would pay £195 a month on average for their support. This works out to over £75 billion of value across all working UK adults.

On average, employees have had just over three mentors in their career, and the average length of time they benefitted from their support was around 11 years. In terms of impact, a third of those surveyed said they had benefitted from the advice and guidance of a mentor. The Paymentsense study also showed a regional disparity. Londoners valued their mentors’ advice at an average of £382.73 per month, compared with just £65.69 for those in Manchester. Those in the capital were also more likely to have had a mentor – 40 per cent of London respondents, compared with 33 per cent of those in Manchester.

The study also revealed a gender-based ‘mentoring gap’ – a third of men said they had a mentor now or in the past, compared with 28 per cent of women. Men also reported having had more mentors than women (3.7 on average, compared with 2.5) and would pay more for their guidance – £229 a month on average, compared with £156 for women.

The mentoring gap suggests that women are less likely to make the most of the opportunity to find career mentors, but according to one ambitious woman in tech, Trouva’s Lucy Ward, there’s a lot that women can learn from having multiple mentors.

Ward is the creative brand director at Trouva, a marketplace showcasing distinctive products from hundreds of independent bricks and mortar boutiques. She has two mentors, one male and one female, and believes it’s increasingly important for women to find female mentors, especially in traditionally male-dominated industries.

“Sophie is the general manager at the world’s leading independent digital rail platform, and a mother of two, but is always full of energy. She fills me with confidence that I can achieve that too,” Ward says of her mentor. “Giorgio inspires me because of his calm influence and level headedness. He runs a company with a similar model to ours in the fashion arena so has walked the path I’m on before, which comes in very useful when seeking guidance.”

“Having a female mentor allows young women to ask questions that are sometimes hard to discuss in male dominated environments, for example around balancing a demanding career with children and confronting the gender pay gap.”

Having mentors can also stimulate a trickle-down effect. Ward, for example is a mentor for women in technology. She is part of ALT (Ambitious Ladies in Tech), a programme by venture capital firm, LocalGlobe, and was asked by Retail Week magazine to join its “Be Inspired” campaign. As part of this, Ward acts as ambassador to help inspire and promote the careers of successful female retail leaders.

For Miles Waghorn, the founder of Techsilver, mentoring doesn’t need to come from individuals. He first received mentoring and support from The Hive, Nottingham Trent University’s centre for enterprise and entrepreneurship. The Hive helped him establish his business and introduced him to his second full-time mentor, Carole Harvey.

“Carole has been instrumental in my success as an entrepreneur. She combines her wealth of wisdom and experience from numerous roles (including commercial finance director at Boots and FD of an £80 million investment firm), with a unique approach where we work together to solve problems, instead of just being told what to do,” he says. “We first met at an Institute of Directors discussion event – I was on a panel as an inexperienced entrepreneur and she was there as an experienced one. Carole’s years of experience means I benefit from advice on both the day-to-day challenges of running a business, as well as longer-term strategic planning. She helped me reach important decisions and boosted my confidence as a young entrepreneur.”

See also: A guide to business mentoring in the UK

Top 10 benefits of a mentor

  • Helped improve my confidence – 39%
  • Helped me manage stress – 23%
  • Helped me get a promotion – 20%
  • Helped me overcome a setback – 20%
  • Helped me deal with a difficult colleague – 18%
  • Helped me with creative ideas – 18%
  • Helped me with a job application – 18%
  • Helped me develop my planning skills – 16%
  • Helped me improve my work-life balance – 15%
  • Suggested a new career path – 15%

Top 5 people most likely to become your mentor

  • An ex-manager at work – 22%
  • An old colleague – 20%
  • Father – 19%
  • First manager at work – 15%
  • A school teacher – 12%

List of people least likely to become your mentor

  • Father-in-law – 1.6%
  • Stepfather – 1.9%
  • Younger sister – 1.9%
  • Stepmother – 2.3%
  • Cousin – 2.3%
  • Old sports coach – 2.3%

Infographic: Mentorship in the UK

Mentorship in the UK

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.