‘Speed mentoring' for women in finance

We were delighted to host a speed mentoring event in support of HM Treasury’s Women in Finance charter at the London Stock Exchange yesterday, Monday 12th December.

An enthusiastic pool of women at the outset of their careers in finance had the unparalleled opportunity to meet mentors in senior leadership roles.

The event was facilitated by Women Ahead’s Maggie Alphonsi, introduced by Xavier Rolet, CEO of London Stock Exchange Group, and hosted by Simon Kirby MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Chief Executive at Virgin Money and the government’s Women in Finance Champion.

This unique event saw 46 senior leaders in financial services sharing their experience with 46 young women at the beginning of their careers in finance. They offered advice on how to advance in a sector where men currently hold 77% of board level and 86% of executive committee positions.

The ‘speed dating’ format meant that everyone had the chance to have a short and focused conversation with a selection of mentors.

Maggie Alphonsi MBE, England Rugby World Cup winner and Women Ahead mentoring leader has seen first-hand how mentoring can help your career skyrocket.

Maggie Alphonsi said:

“My mentors helped me believe in myself, and with that inner strength, I found I reached higher and achieved more in my career than I could have managed alone.

“Today we’re seeing women at the start of their careers being given an extraordinary opportunity to meet senior leaders who could guide them right up to company board positions.

“Mentoring, when done well, gives you not only great connections and careers advice, but helps unleash the potential everyone has. We can’t wait to see how this group of women travels up the career chain.”

-R Jayne Anne Ghadia, Maggie Alphonsi, Xavier Rolet, Simon Kirby MP


All the mentors came from the 93 financial services firms that have signed the Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter which commits firms to increasing gender diversity at senior levels. Mentors include representatives from leading firms including MasterCard, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC UK, BP Energy Supply and Trading and Jupiter Asset Management.

In a review commissioned by the Treasury, Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the CEO of Virgin Money and the government’s Women in Finance Champion, found that 77% of women felt that mentoring schemes would make a difference to their career progression. 

New analysis from New Financial, the official data partner for the Women in Finance Charter, reveals that among Charter signatories, banks have set the most ambitious targets relative to current levels – as a group they are aiming to increase women in senior roles by more than 40% over the next five years.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Chief Executive at Virgin Money and the government’s Women in Finance Champion, said:

“It is important that the next generation of women working in finance have the opportunity to break the glass ceiling and get to the top.

“Achieving a balanced workforce at all levels in financial services will undoubtedly improve culture, profitability and productivity and I am delighted to see so many positive role models here today to mentor and encourage women just starting out with their careers.”

Simon Kirby, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said:

“It is fantastic that so many senior leaders in financial services have given up their time to take part in our speed mentoring event.

“Today proves these firms are not just paying lip service to the Women in Finance Charter but are living its values and actively working to help the next generation to climb the ranks.

“It is really important to keep the momentum going on this agenda and recognise the strong link between greater gender diversity and improved productivity and performance in our financial services sector.”

Xavier Rolet, CEO, London Stock Exchange Group, said:

“London Stock Exchange Group is delighted to be hosting today’s ‘speed mentoring’ session for women at the start of their careers in finance. 

“A diverse global workforce is pivotal to the success of our business, and as a signatory to the Women in Finance Charter, we are firmly committed to nurturing female talent within all levels of our organisation.

To find out how we can establish mentoring programmes in your organsiation, or how to join the 30% Club cross-company mentoring scheme, please contact Rebecca Davies at Rebecca@women-ahead.org




This week I embraced my panic zone. The panic zone is that intimidating place our Moving Ahead speaker and former rugby international superstar, Maggie Alphonsi, encourages us to be bold enough to enter. It’s that space where you step out of your comfort zone, and start to learn and create change in yourself.


Public speaking is my personal panic zone. People assume that when you’re a CEO, public speaking is a breeze. It isn’t for me – or for many other senior female leaders that I know.


I had been asked to speak on the theme of ‘change’ to 150 people for 40 minutes. My immediate reaction was to say no!  What qualifies me to talk on this topic? How was I going to make it perfect? And the absolute fear that set in when I saw that Google’s awe-inspiring Creativity Expert would be taking the next item on the agenda really can’t be put into words.


But then I decided to ‘say yes.’ It was time to combine my passion with purpose and go for it – to truly embrace the growth mindset we share with so many people through our work at Women Ahead and Moving Ahead and to tell my story to the audience at the Sport and Recreation Leadership Alliance Leadership Convention.


That meant taking on the principles of the growth mindset -  the belief that you can learn anything you want to, if you work really hard. It meant giving the challenge my focused attention, seeking the wisdom of my peers, practicing on my colleagues and pushing myself into my panic zone.


At Women Ahead we work with some phenomenal experts in speaking and voice – to help equip the women we support. So I had to think of what I have learnt from them.


One is our brilliant presence and impact expert, Patsy Rodenburg OBE, who delivered an excellent workshop for our clients last week. She says that everyone has a voice and it is important that we use it. I sought and took expert advice from our storytelling expert Simon Arrowswmith, who helped me structure the narrative to bring the audience along with me. I have been observing my role models – people like Helena Morrissey, Brenda Trenowden, and Maggie Alphonsi addressing huge audiences with such enthusiasm and clarity. I have drawn confidence and inspiration from them.


I have discovered that women are far more likely to dislike public speaking than men, and part of this comes from a fear of not being perfect. It has been shown that women often like to feel 100% confident they will be able to deliver perfection before they commit to public speaking. They are also frequently advised to become someone they aren’t, to be more like a man – but it’s not good advice. Being yourself is the key to authenticity, connecting and resonating with the audience.


There’s also a body of work from Yale University that describes how women who talk up are more likely to be derided by their peers – even female colleagues will judge them harshly for this. The Moving Ahead team is working intensively to develop an Inclusive Leadership Programme at the moment. Recognising and understanding these invisible assumptions held by men and women is key to counterbalancing unconscious bias in the workplace. We’re taking the research several steps further and offering practical, measurable, strategies to mitigate unconscious bias from the workplace so and achieve greater gender parity, more diverse leadership teams, and better performance for our clients.


And through this whole process, I have learnt that I can learn. Our ambassador Sarah Winckless MBE says that the brain is a muscle that can be developed like any other. The more you develop it, the stronger it becomes. You can grow your own self-belief!


So, panic zone, watch out - I’m coming to get you!