By Elise Nobileau Forget / iW50 UK Mentoring Programme:

Britain has made no progress in tackling gender inequality in the last decade. Today, 97% of CEOs at FTSE 350 companies are men. At the next level, only 20% are women. These figures demonstrate that many women’s careers hit that famous glass ceiling, with women never reaching their full potential. The government, pressed by various groups, has pushed companies to increase women’s representation at board levels. But, despite this increased focus on gender parity, the ratio of men to women in top positions remains deeply unbalanced. Is this right? Should we just shrug and move on? It seems that for many men, and women for that matter, that is what women should do. I was surprised recently to read the comments’ section in a number of Financial Times’ articles to find that many men find this subject tiresome. Enough! they say.

This seems corroborated by a study done by Bain & Company[1] which found that fewer than 50% of male respondents thought that gender equality should be a strategic issue at their companies. The majority of these men also believed that women already had the same opportunities as men for promotion to senior management positions. Interestingly enough, the women’s perception was diametrically different to the men, with more than 50% believing that gender parity should be a strategic priority at their companies and, fewer than half believing they had equal opportunity for advancement.

While many men might sigh at this point and say that lower aspirations or having children are the culprit… It seems that studies point in other direction… And, “high-potential women lag high potential men in advancement and compensation right from their first post-MBA jobs.[2]

It goes without saying that, if men perceive that the playing field is already level, they will not support gender parity discussion. What is even more interesting from the Bain study, however, is that the most satisfied employees are senior-level men with supportive spouses who don’t work. I would venture a guess that these are exactly the men that women need most, as they are the ones with the most power.

My daughter is at a top university now and working towards getting a first, should I just tell her to quit and learn how to cook, as the system is rigged against her? The majority (56%) of university graduates in the UK are women. We owe it to these women to ensure that their lives are fulfilled. We know that they, as we did in our time, will find jobs as easily as their male peers, but they will soon encounter barriers that will make their dreams difficult to reach.

This is where mentorship comes in. It is critical to the success of women across industries. We all benefit when a professional person with more experience shows us the ropes, explains office politics, gives us advice, and helps us navigate the world of work — especially when we are female and our access to more senior men is so restricted.

Women get less of the mentorship and sponsorship that opens doors.[3] We tend to gravitate toward people like us which means that men help each other and women miss out.[4] So you do the maths. If fewer men mentor women, fewer women will rise to the top. Now, you might not care if you are a man, but maybe your daughter will, or your niece, and maybe if it takes 127 years to achieve gender parity, your granddaughter might ask you what you did to help the cause?

I have been working with a small group of women to put in place a mentoring programme focussed on helping INSEAD women in current and potential leadership positions to manage transitions and further develop their careers. We are now calling on senior INSEAD men and women in the UK to come forward and give back to their INSEAD colleagues to make a difference. The programme will be launched on March 20th at one of our events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first woman graduating with an MBA from INSEAD.

Whether you have mentoring experience or not, this is the time to come forward and give some time to someone who needs your advice.

Get Involved. 

Be part of the movement.

Tell your kids what you have contributed!

Tell me more about the INSEAD Mentoring Programme

 “Men vastly outnumber women as managers and senior leaders, so when they avoid, ice out, or exclude women, we pay the price.” Sheryl Sandberg

And why not come along to our event on 20th March 2018 to hear from our inspirational speakers about career transition and transformation.

Visit our event website and book your ticket now.

If you are not part of the INSEAD community, don’t let that stop you. Reach out and make a difference today.


[1] Gender equality in the UK: The next stage of the journey, September 16, 2013. Bain Brief. Darci Darnell, Orit Gadiesh

[2] Catalyst: The Promise of Future Leadership—Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline,

[3] George F. Dreher and Taylor H. Cox Jr., “Race, gender, and opportunity: A study of compensation attainment and the establishment of mentoring relationships,” Journal of Applied Psychology 81, no. 3 (1996): 297–308

[4] Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and James M. Cook, “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks,” Annual Review of Sociology 27 (2001): 415–44,