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Emily Pearce, Director of Global Customer Care at Achievers, makes the connection between mentorship programming and a fairer future
How mentorship, women’s networks, and DEI work together toward a fair future
Creating a gender-equal world, a world that’s diverse and inclusive enough to have as many women sit at the decision-making table as men in the workplace, takes a great deal of work. It’s amazing how many women are taking it upon themselves to contribute extra time and talent outside of their regular jobs to co-create an equitable environment where all women belong and thrive. And it’s happening in droves.
This International Women’s Day, we’re taking a moment to recognize women such as these at Achievers, whose work is making the world a more equitable place. Their leadership and progress are making a significant contribution to changing the way the world works.
From the Achievers Women’s Network, a global employee resource group (ERG), to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, to the Achievers Mentorship Program (AMP), leaders of these progressive mandates are showing up day after day, even after hours, to discover, to educate, and to move the dial forward on equity for all women everywhere.
“The Achievers Women’s Network (AWN) is on a mission to empower, enable, and inspire women in technology to guide and develop their own careers without limitation through sharing information, best practices, and education. Since establishing in 2014, many of the employee-led groups that exist at Achievers today have spurred from AWN, which is a testament to what happens when you provide women and allies with the support and resources needed to build a diverse and inclusive culture. ERGs such as AWN open up all sorts of possibilities for employees — from career advancements to networking to creating friendships. It really is a community of talented people, and I couldn’t be prouder to be chair.
~ AWN Chair Laura Curk, Senior Product Marketing Manager
One of these brilliant initiatives, born from Achievers Women’s Network, is the Achievers Mentorship Program (AMP), the seeds of which were cultivated by Co-Chair Emily Pearce, director of customer care at Achievers. AMP has seen tremendous success over the past few years. So much so, that it’s grown to become led by five co-chairs, including: Krystal Hindle, manager of customer success; Alyssa Tantillo, solutions consultant; Peggy Altherr, director of customer success; and Chelsea Parry, director of product management. Modeling the mentorship behaviors that they advocate for, they work together in a networked leader approach, supporting each other in bringing full skill sets and perspectives to the table, pushing one another to fulfil their potential.
The co-chairs of AMP are excited to roll out the program as a new ERG for Achievers employees, poised to provide an exciting opportunity for utilizing feedback to build a bespoke program based on the unique needs of the organization and its people. It’s imperative to them that they listen to and act on preferences from their fellow employees for a mentorship program, and what they’ve learned is that their colleagues are hungry for not only mentorship, but also coaching and sponsorship. Moving forward, beginning with a mentorship and coaching model, they’ll focus on developing a mentor network as a community of practice, creating space for the mentor community to engage and share in learnings about mentorship together while respecting the individual partnerships they support.
We wanted to highlight how AMP contributes to a more equitable workplace for women, and how leaders at other organizations can implement some of these mentorship models to achieve similar results. Here’s what Co-Chair Emily had to say.
“This concept of having a network or team in our corner is going to be the gamechanger in getting more women a seat at the table. By leveraging mentorship to support our psychosocial development, coaching to build our skills, and sponsorship to foster advocacy, we can create a more equitable future for ourselves. Women have historically embraced community and there’s power in us continuing to build, support, and encourage each other through community models.”
~ AMP Co-Chair Emily Pearce, Director of Customer Care
Getting to the root of gender equality through mentorship opportunities for women
AMP contributes to a more equitable workplace for women in so many ways, from providing a structured growth program for mentees to removing barriers for leaders to become mentors. One of the ways we support an equitable workplace for women at work is by soliciting and acting on feedback from employees. We’ve listened, and we’ve learned that a more flexible approach to the pairing process removes barriers to entry for both mentees and mentors, resulting in better activation, satisfaction, and success rates for the program.
Raising the visibility of mentoring partnerships throughout the organization is incredibly important, ensuring that everyone has access to participation, regardless of where they may be in their careers. The more that we share and celebrate in the successes of our community, the more we hope to see others join the program.
When I was starting out my career, I remember hearing about how important mentors were, especially for women. I never knew how to approach a potential mentor and make the ask, or what that entailed. I started out by creating a list of those I admired and as I narrowed that list down, there was one woman at the top: Dana Golding, a leader at the organization where I worked at the time. The stars seemed to align, and I moved within the organization to report into Dana. Even though we had a direct reporting relationship, she took on the role of mentor-coach and has remained my “guide on the side” as I’ve moved on in my career at Achievers. Dana was such an impactful mentor. She always embraced a philosophy that mentees should grow with you, learn from you, and eventually excel without you. We were working in the automotive technology industry where things moved quickly, changed often, and didn’t allow a ton of space for emotions. Dana never once apologized for who she was. Instead, she modeled how a leader can be successful by bringing their full self to the organization, embracing empathy, and leading with authenticity.
The role of mentorship in ensuring that seated at 50% of all C-suite tables are women
I believe mentorship plays a role in equality, diversity, and inclusion at the very top, but ultimately, we need a network of support to start seeing the same success as men in making it to the C-suite table. Sylvia Hewlett wrote a great book called Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career. In it, she writes about the importance of having a team behind you comprising a coach, mentor, and sponsor. At the time the book was published, she cited that more men received promotions than women, even though more women were involved in mentorship! She attributed this to sponsorship as the catalyst for advancing men in their careers.
This concept of having a network or team in our corner is going to be the gamechanger in getting more women a seat at the table. By leveraging mentorship to support our psychosocial development, coaching to build our skills, and sponsorship to foster advocacy, we can create a more equitable future for ourselves. Women have historically embraced community and there’s power in us continuing to build, support, and encourage each other through community models. In fact, according to Achievers Workforce Institute research, 51% of women rated having strong connections and friendships at work highly.
“My work in helping to forge a more inclusive place for women to fulfil the careers of their dreams is being brave when I am scared and more importantly, showing the fear I am working through, and with, to reach my desired outcome. I want to peel the layer back that might misrepresent what it takes to get to where you want to go. It can be a great journey, but in my experience, there are a lot of things you need to work through, personally and professionally, for the stamina to forge forward in workplace cultures that were not built on equity.”
~ DEI Chair Bianca West, Senior Manager of Professional Services EMEA
How the sponsorship of women bolsters the efforts of mentorship
I wasn’t familiar with the term sponsorship prior to joining Achievers. In a conversation about mentorship with CHRO Hannah Yardley, she introduced me to the concept and referenced my own experience as an example of sponsorship at work.
While at Achievers, I’ve also been working through my Master of Arts in Leadership. Through the program, I opted to complete an engaged leadership project and asked Achievers to allow me to conduct mentorship research within the organization. I worked directly with our COO Kristian Gaetano who sponsored the project for approval with senior leadership and committed to it through completion. This act of supporting the project added credibility to the request as I was able to benefit from his existing relationship. He, too, benefitted, as the project has contributed to AMP, and an opportunity for many others into the future.
This is exactly the role of a sponsor – to remove challenges for their protégés and advocate for their success. Unlike mentorship, sponsorship is a reciprocal relationship because in return for the support of a sponsor, a protégé responds with loyalty and high performance. It truly is a game changer in one’s career path, however it takes work, there’s risk associated, and it must be built through an organic relationship.
The organic nature of mentee-to-mentor-to-leader relationships
Most of my mentoring relationships have started organically. True mentorships are agnostic in that there can’t be a direct reporting line involved, and the mentor needs to be invested only in the success of the mentor. Many of my mentoring partnerships started as a leader-employee relationship which evolved into a mentorship. With one of my partnerships, we’ve journeyed together through coaching, mentorship, and sponsorship – the ultimate trio. Our relationship started through direct reporting lines where, as her leader I took a coaching role focused on skill development to move her to the next level of her career. When she moved to a new organization, we maintained our relationship, which grew into a mentorship. Through this mentorship, I would provide guidance and she would act on what she felt was appropriate to her situation. My role was simply to help as a sounding board for her to talk through her options and provide an alternate view where necessary. Now, we’ve moved into a sponsorship where she has joined Achievers! In the organization, I advocate on her behalf and work to remove barriers to her growth as I am personally invested in her success and career trajectory.
Reverse mentorship: what leaders need to know
When thinking about mentorship, we often envision the traditional model, where a senior employee mentors someone more junior. But reverse mentorship flips that on its head – a senior employee seeks guidance from a junior employee. In this case, topics of learning are more general and may cover technology, culture, or socioeconomics. The reverse mentorship model gives organizations in traditionally male-dominated industries the opportunity to create space for women to thrive.
“Creating a place where women can do the best work of their lives is incredibly important to me. As the first (and currently only) woman on the APAC senior leadership team I feel a real sense of responsibility to pave the way and help create opportunities for others. This sometimes means having conversations that are uncomfortable or that I perhaps feel unprepared for. If I can facilitate or contribute to conversations about microaggressions, advocate for closing gender pay gaps, and challenge how we attract and retain women in business, then I can make a difference. I try to create space for others to share their experiences in a safe environment, to provide feedback in the moment (even when it’s hard) and to be a cheerleader for other women in the business when I see self-doubt getting in their way. My vision is that those around me feel empowered to do the same.”
~ DEI Advisory Committee Pillar Lead Emma Harvie, Manager, Customer Success, APAC
Building a mentorship path for women
When considering the “how to” of building a mentorship relationship or program, there are three foundations that contribute to a better chance of success.
1. The mentee is responsible for their own career and development. Oftentimes, we put pressure on our leaders to create and push us along a path when in fact no one is responsible for our success apart from ourselves. Once I started taking ownership of my growth, I stopped expecting support and started appreciating those in my life who offered it.
2. Honestly reflect on your strengths, opportunities, and goals. You don’t have to have a detailed five-year plan to start a mentorship, but it does help to have a general understanding of who you are as an individual, where you might like to go in your career, and who you would like to become.
3. Be patient in looking for the right fit. Take time to interview potential mentors to find the right fit. Mentorship is an exercise in vulnerability, so finding the right chemistry can take time. It will be important to ensure you’re both up for the task. A suggestion is to take stock of those people you’re already connected to or those who have skills that you admire. Is there a leader who demonstrated great patience in their role or a friend who handles change well? Start there.
4. Do the work. Mentorship requires commitment and investment from the mentor and the mentee. When done right, it’s a shared learning partnership where both participants are learning and growing.
“Even before my involvement in AMP, I was a strong believer in the power that great mentorship could have on my career and overall self confidence. As an active mentee and mentor, I have already received so much value from the program and I am completely rejuvenated from all the brainstorming we’ve been doing to make it even better! We cannot wait to share and hear about the experiences with the revAMPed mentorship program in 2022!”
~ AMP Co-Chair Alyssa Tantillo, Solutions Consultant
It’s clear from what Emily had to say about mentorship, coaching, and sponsorship that they each have a significant role in creating an equitable future for women at work. Participation as a mentor, mentee, sponsor, and reverse mentor are ways to experience a direct impact today, while investing in a fair future.
Today, women are 24% less likely to have been recognized by their manager in the last week when compared to men. Organizations that take a cue from AMP, the Achievers Women’s Network, and the initiatives of progressive DEIB committees such as at Achievers will be doing their part to help break the bias, forging a gender-equal world to benefit everyone.