Trend Radar: March 2009
Mentoring Assistance: When the Atlanta consulting firm Pathbuilders, Inc. was founded in 1995, the company’s mission centered on helping talented women further their careers. The idea was to unite promising candidates with mentors from outside their corporate culture who could guide their young charges from junior positions to the executive suite.
As it turns out, men needed the same attention and assistance. One of Pathbuilders’s most recent clients had a male-only culture for more than two centuries – the U.S. Army. “The Army has long had an interest in developing military leadership but has never had as much of an interest in civilian leadership development,” says Helene Lollis, president of Pathbuilders.
Another recent client, Georgia State University (GSU), contracted with Pathbuilders to begin a mentoring program for its new master’s degree in the science of managing information technology, open to both women and men. “We bring in individuals from industry to be the mentors,” Lollis says. “This is another step to help prepare the individuals from a career perspective beyond the classroom education. And it brings this real-life, network-building component to the program.”
Still, Pathfinders remains centered on its mentoring work with women. Lollis says the firm is receiving more and more requests from corporations such as the Southern Company to begin mentoring programs for women at every level of employment.
“This isn’t just about a nice thing to do,” she says, quoting a national study of issues surrounding women in the workplace at Fortune 500 companies which showed that those with a higher proportion of women in senior executive positions gave shareholders a 35 percent better return on their investment.
“The organizations where women can be more successful and move into the senior leadership ranks are more financially successful,” she says. “It’s about return on investment.”
Pathbuilders reports its revenues have grown by 25 percent during the last two years and projects that figure to double in the next two. “We feel like it’s not about women sitting in the [executive suite], but about a place where that can happen,” Lollis says. “A place that is open-minded and open to diversity and very focused on moving all people forward is a place that is more financially successful. They’re just making better decisions.”