Gender balance at the top of business is widely recognised as key to success. So why are we still a long way from parity? And what can mentoring do to level the playing field? Dame Helena Morrissey discusses the issues.

Diversity and development experts Women Ahead and the 30% Club are due to welcome the next intake of high profile mentors and mentees to the rapidly growing cross-company mentoring programme on Wednesday 7 February.

At one of two events, due to be held at the QEII Centre on Wednesday, mentors and mentees will hear from Dame Helena Morrissey, Legal & General Head of Personal Investing and author of A good time to be a girl. She will discuss where we are in terms of gender diversity in the UK, what is holding us back, and what we can do through mentoring to push progress. This is Dame Helena's first ever talk about her new book, which will be launched on Wednesday evening. You can follow the TED-style talk live from 12.30pm on twitter @Women_Ahead.

The 30% Club cross-company mentoring programme – the largest in the UK - has welcomed nearly 2,000 mentors and mentees from 106 companies this year. Five years ago, just eight companies were on board. A sample of organisations involved include Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, the Financial Times, The British Army, Legal & General, Penguin Random House UK, Bupa, United Utilities and Volkswagen.

In the programme, high potential women in the ‘danger zone’ of their careers are mentored by senior male and female leaders from the UK’s most high profile businesses. The goal of the programme is to attract and retain women into leadership and Board roles.

Liz Dimmock, CEO and Founder of Women Ahead and 30% Club Steering Committee member says: “Our recent research study (Turning the gender diversity dial) proves that mentoring is key to pushing gender diversity forward in UK businesses. Mentoring schemes are proven to enable a more inclusive culture by providing the skills and frameworks for more empathetic, accessible, male and female, future and current leaders who understand the challenges, barriers and issues facing women in senior leadership roles. Our female mentees are given an unrivalled opportunity to learn from the best.”

The 30% Club cross-company programme carefully matches senior male and female leaders with high potential female mentees at the ‘pivot point’ of their careers –  the point at which organisations notice a divergence between male and female career paths. Mentors and mentees take part in a nine-month mentoring programme, supplemented by regular learning events and workshops focusing on growth mindset, inclusive leadership and wellbeing and opportunities to build networks.

Through the 30% Club programme alone, Women Ahead has helped nearly 4,300 mentors and mentees from 150 organisations since it started running the programme four years ago. Organisations interested in joining the 30% Club cross-company movement for positive gender balance through mentoring are welcome to contact liz@women-ahead.org.

Notes to Editors

Click here for a short video about the 30% cross-company mentoring programme.

To see a gallery of people describing their experience of our mentoring programmes, search #inspiredbymentoring on twitter.

Moving Ahead is a purpose-led, specialist development and diversity organisation. We believe in the power of mentoring programmes, masterclasses, and research to create positive change. The ‘why’ is simple - diversity of thought, experience, and teams leads to increased creativity, innovation, retention and better business performance. Moving Ahead works not just around the world but also across the spectrum of diversity, for more than 150 organisations including BT, Cisco, Google, Warner Music, Deloitte and Ricoh. We have supported more than 4,500 mentors and mentees.

Women Ahead is Moving Ahead’s award-winning social enterprise arm with a focus on gender. It is where our story started – as a mentoring organisation founded with the belief that parity between men and women will benefit individuals, organisations and society as a whole. Our goals have evolved hugely since start-up in 2014.

The 30% Club was founded in the UK in 2010 and is a global effort with chapters in ten countries around the world. Led by Brenda Trenowden, Global Chair, the 30% Club collaborates with businesses, governments and other campaigns to improve gender diversity and accelerate the pace of change from schoolroom to boardroom. Campaign targets include a minimum 30% women at senior management level of FTSE-100 companies by 2020.

The 30% Club supports research on why women are good for business and what works to ensure more women progress through the executive pipeline. The 30% Club actively calls for companies to take more radical action, including publicly reporting the gender balance in their organisation.  This includes organisations working with the Hampton-Alexander Review to agree and adopt standardised methodology to help monitor female participation in the executive pipeline.

The 30% Club cross company mentoring programme was intitally launched by EY.

Contact Timma Marett on timma@moving-ahead.org or +44 7901 682219 for more information or interviews.