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The Mary Reibey Mentoring Program boosts women's career possibilities

02 May 2014

It’s no surprise to find that the salary gap between men and women, whether they’re at the top or the beginning of their professional careers, is substantially unequal. As a recent Boss article uncovered, leading executive women in Australia are paid less than their male counterparts in the same role.

Correcting the balance is not easy. However, the important part networking and mentoring can play in exposing and addressing the discrepancies faced by women in the workplace cannot be underestimated.

Mentoring can help retain and nurture existing talent; encourage a culture of diversity and inclusion and, most importantly, empower women leaders.

Jenny Morris Leanne Townsend Siena Balakrishnan Rosemary Bishop


Ruby’s recent initiative to award not-for-profit female leaders with the chance to take part in a year-long mentoring program with Jenny Morris’ Orijen group (above left), which specialises in delivering bespoke professional mentoring programs, kicked off in March. We spoke with two of the women in the mentoring circle.

Rosemary Bishop, the CEO of Mamre Plains (above right), and Leanne Townsend, CEO of the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy (NASCA) in Redfern (above centre left), are taking part in the Mary Reibey Mentoring program.

The program uses a Peer Group mentoring model. The group meets monthly for three hours and combines senior and peer mentoring. The mentor and peers help one another learn and develop appropriate skills and knowledge.

“It’s very early days, but we’ve certainly discovered common themes and patterns,” says Mamre Plains CEO Rosemary Bishop.

Rosemary says everyone in the group had a story to share around children and the balancing act that occurs with career when you have children.

A second common theme, she noted, centered on relationships - either the forming of one or the ending of one - and how that impacted career choices.

“Early opportunity and early opportunity taken was also something we found we had in common,” says Rosemary.

She went on to note that having the trust of someone and having an important individual demonstrate confidence in you was also very important for early and continued success.

The importance of network and how those networks are formed and used dominated the very open and frank discussion.

“The integration of each person’s personal and public story really helped us engage as a group. There was a real investment of time listening to one another,” says Rosemary.

One of the more procedural elements of the experience, and one to which both Rosemary and Leanne Townsend are looking forward, is “meeting at each other’s work space”, and “getting to see and understand the current situation for each member of the circle”.

“I can’t wait for the group to come to an Aboriginal community group in Redfern,” says Leanne, who is the newly appointed NASCA CEO.

The “homework” also made a deep impression on both women.

“We have to consider something we do unconsciously when leading,” says Leanne, pointing out, “that’s a real challenge, identifying what you’re not conscious of doing and then working on it for the entire month in the workplace.”

For Leanne, the mentoring program reminded her that it’s been a long time since she’s been in a learning environment.

“I loved the opportunity, as well as being in a room with engaged women.

“It became very clear,” she says, “that success in career and personal life go hand in hand and if a person is to grow and develop both must be given the time. It was great to take time out of a busy day and do something for myself that will also benefit the organisation.

“It will be interesting to see what it is I do unconsciously as a leader and what implications that has for others around me,” Leanne finishes.


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