On Thursday 20th June, Women in Defence UK hosted our first ever Speed Mentoring evening, at Event Partner PA Consulting’s London office. The evening was a huge success, with attendees from right across the defence enterprise.
Since being founded in 2011 as a LinkedIn group of passionate women working in defence, we’ve grown into a thriving community dedicated to improving gender balance across defence. This year has been one of step-change for us, as we’ve transitioned to pro-actively demonstrate the direct impact and force multiplying effect women bring to defence of the nation.
Our inaugural Speed Mentoring evening was a key part of this drive and is one element of a packed events schedule that also includes: a series of three Impact Masterclasses delivered by RADA; several networking and briefing evenings including with Michelle Partington, Woman of the Year 2018; and the 2019 Women in Defence Awards.
We wanted to bring something unique to the mentoring space and based on the positive feedback we got from all those involved, it’s been well worth doing. We paired up private sector mentors with public sector mentees and vice versa for a series of 10 minute conversations, tailored to topics the mentees wanted to discuss.
After the speed mentoring segment, there was dedicated time for networking accompanied by refreshments and nibbles, so conversations didn’t have to be cut short and the full impact from the evening could be felt. For our part, we gathered some useful feedback about how to run the event even better next time and some glowing testimonies from mentors and mentees alike about how much they had personally gained from the evening.
A few attendees admitted that they had been sceptical about how much they stood to learn from mentors from a different part of the sector but finished the evening attesting to how much they had gained from the diverse perspectives and amount of knowledge and experience on offer. And the testimonies spoke for themselves.
WO Sarah Cotman, one of our mentors for the evening, said: “I was honoured to be asked to mentor at the WiD Speed Mentoring event. Throughout the evening there was a real buzz of positivity and support amongst the group. There were some very talented people, all wanting to develop themselves and their organisations in many different ways. As a mentor I was thoroughly challenged myself, being asked some demanding questions whilst really trying to empower these fantastic women to believe in themselves and what they had to offer. I left feeling inspired to do more and be better. What more can we all ask for? Thank you WiD for the opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Abbie Pierce, who came along as a mentee, told us: “The event gave me a wealth of inspiration for how I would like to deliver on my strategy as I move forward with my Freelance Coaching. And also highlighted some key areas that require my attention…A common emerging theme appears to be related to perceptions of asking for help and also knowing who to ask and where to look. This suggests a programme of regular speed mentoring / coaching events would enable people to make those vital connections."
And as for our own testimony, we had a fantastic time as well, catching up with familiar faces and meeting plenty of new members of our passionate WiD community too. We’re incredibly grateful to all of our mentors and mentees for coming along and making our first ever Speed Mentoring event such a success, as well as to our brilliant partner, PA Consulting, for making the evening possible.
Gender balance in defence and security won’t happen by chance but we’re excited about the road ahead. We’re a strong community committed to putting in the concerted effort required across the enterprise, and we know that by continuing to develop, challenge, demonstrate and inspire, we’ll help make defence a better place for everyone.