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Women reaching across the finance divide

Posted by Jon Meyrick, over 1 year ago

3 min read

When you want to take action to help women reach their full potential in the world of finance, you’ll probably start by looking at how you can make a difference in your own organisation. But if you’re really committed to the cause, you may get to the point where you start to look wider.

At NatWest Group, our colleagues have had the chance to do exactly that. As part of our long-standing partnership with Women in Banking & Finance, they’ve taken the step of mentoring women at other financial services firms. And the benefits have been felt far and wide.

Walking the talk

One of those colleagues is Linda Urquhart, an non-executive director at Coutts and an OBE who’s had four mentees through the programme. She’s a big believer in the power of mentoring to boost careers, and to make companies more diverse from top to bottom.

‘In essence I mentor because I believe in women helping other women,’ she says. ‘And because, sitting on the Coutts board and encouraging the executive leadership to improve diversity, it’s about me walking the talk.’

For a senior leader like Linda, part of the appeal is that mentoring gives her a very real connection to the experiences of women in more junior places in their careers. ‘It’s a way for me to hear from the “coal face” in the banking and financial world as to how women are feeling about the industry right now – useful intelligence. My mentees have all come from very different parts of the industry, giving me an insight into areas which are new as well as familiar.’

Confidence and belief

Claire Foy, Head of Wealth Capability, also welcomes the chance mentoring gives her to engage in something different. ‘It’s a break from my own world, an insight into another company’, she tells us. ‘But also a chance to support an amazing woman to find her voice and her confidence, and witness first-hand how others now see her value.’

Most recently Claire’s been working with Gillian Bell. With her children being older and more independent, Gillian wanted to push on with her career and show what she was capable of. But she wasn’t sure what direction she wanted to go in, and didn’t feel confident in putting herself forward.

‘Working together, we were able to clear away the noise, concentrate on what she really wanted to aim for, and what she enjoyed most,’ Claire remembers. ‘Within eight months she was running the project of her dreams in an area she thrived in.’

Unsurprisingly given that success, Gillian looks back on their relationship fondly. ‘Claire and I connected on our first call. She really got who I was, my personality, my fears about stepping out my comfort zone, and helped me focus on what I wanted to do.

‘I became more and more confident about reaching for that career goal and worked with Claire on how I would achieve it. She gave me that nudge when I needed to push myself, she reassured me that I did have the skills to progress and sometimes you need your cheerleader telling you to go for it! It was scary pushing myself outside my comfort zone but I’ve ended up with a new job that fits perfectly with what I wanted to do, my personality, uses my skills, and makes me excited to catch up with Claire and tell her how well it’s going.’

A helping hand

Sometimes the benefits of the scheme can be even more direct. Claire Coyne, a Business Development Manager, started working with Helen Bragger after being matched up last year. ‘She was struggling in a new team and she needed lots of support and encouragement’, Claire remembers. Helen was working at a rival financial institution, but Claire saw her talents and knew she could be a great fit here. ‘Following several meetings, I decided to reach out within NatWest to see if there were any vacancies and eventually found the perfect opportunity. I held a mock interview with Helen and shared all of my learnings from my own interview experience. I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to guide and support her to get to this point. She’s delighted and NatWest get a fantastic new addition to our business.’

The benefits of the programme are as varied as the people who take part in it. For our colleagues, while they differ in what they get personally, it’s the chance to help other women in their careers that’s the main motivator. And for the mentees, as Gillian points out, there’s the chance to make a big change in their working lives. ‘If you’re thinking about a mentor, go for it,’ she says. ‘You won’t regret it and you may too get your dream role.’

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