In response to the study on Women in Jewish leadership (published 2012), Lead is delighted to report back on the success of the pilot of the Women’s Mentoring programme. 11 mentoring pairs were established during the early part of 2013, following a high energy and quite challenging speed-dating event where potential mentors and mentees met for the first time. One of the ingredients to the success of this programme is that it has cut across the traditional divides within the community, bringing together an incredibly dynamic and diverse range of women from charity, religious, education, social action and culture backgrounds. The pairs created their own schedule of meetings, typically every 6 to 8 weeks in a range of locations. The mentees have described how the meetings have built their confidence and willingness to try out different strategies and the mentors have valued being able to, at times, offer different advice or test out their own views in a risk-free environment. Both parties have described with joy the enormous learning that has been gained on each side. In addition to the pairs meeting, we held several networking events for all participants enabling mentors to share and learn from each other and mentees to share their experiences too.
What we have learned at Lead: As Sam Clifford, Lead Programme Manager put it: “6 months in Jewish terms inevitably meant 12 months” – we probably underestimated just how busy these women are, so setting up initial meetings and ensuring that the pairs felt that they could progress proved to be quite challenging. We were also very pleasantly surprised by the extent of learning that the mentors described, not just the mentees. Another key learning was that we had to be flexible – for some people that ideal template of creating a set of objectives for the period of mentoring worked well, but for others a more fluid, “see what comes up” worked better. The adage “if you want something doing, and you want it doing well, ask a busy woman” has rarely been so true. These women, mentors and mentees alike, are all phenomenally busy, often with families & busy careers, still found time to explore and develop together. Their desire to make a difference, and to make the unique contribution that women can make in the community, is exciting and feels like a great start.