Getting more women to the top in technology

A new mentoring programme aims to help women get to the top in technology.

Image of people at work in the background with technology overlay indicating techposter syndrome


Technology firms BT and digital firm Avanade are backing an industry-wide mentoring initiative to fast track senior women reach leadership roles in tech.

The Rebus Programme will begin this autumn, led by Odgers Berndtson, an international executive search firm.

The programme follows a recent global study, Women Leaders in Technology, of almost 1,000 senior technology appointments made by the firm in the five years to January 2019. This showed that whilst women have doubled their share of top appointments and narrowed the earnings gap, they still lag behind men in both senior specialist and top commercial roles across the technology sector.

The Rebus mentoring programme is not only for women working in tech firms, but also those working in technical functions.

Unlike many other mentoring programmes it is not an entry level programme. It is aimed at women who have already achieved a certain level in their careers and who want to progress to the top of their organisation. Holly Addison, Head of Consumer Digital & Telecoms at Odgers Berndtson, says it provides a framework and support to navigate that progression through giving them access to a network of male and female mentors who are either at director level or have run their own businesses. She adds that it is particularly useful for women working in SMEs in the tech sector  where formal support may not otherwise be available.

Holly says the programme, which officially launches in October, is looking for mentees who are around two to three steps away from boardroom level, depending on the size of their company, who need objective advice and feedback, who may have hit glass ceilings or be facing the challenge of returning to work after maternity leave.

It kicks off with a speed mentoring event which gets around the problems of matching mentors and mentees at scale. The events are held in the early evening. The mentee meets around six people for 15-20 minutes each in an informal setting. They can then make a connection with potential mentors who they feel they can work with and arrange to meet again or follow up with Skype calls.  Odgers Berndtson helps to make connections and facilitating the process as well as providing tools to make the mentor and mentee relationship more effective.

Because the programme is only run once a year Holly says a high level of mentors are attracted to it. The organisers follow up with mentees and mentors around three months later to see how things are going and to get feedback.

Holly says a similar programme was run last year in another sector and Odgers Berndtson has learnt from that and will continue to evolve, for instance, they have included a break after mentees have met three mentors at the speed mentoring session. That allows everyone to mingle informally.

“I have been involved in writing white papers and reports for years on women on boards, but we wanted to do something practical to get more women on boards,” says Holly, adding that it can be difficult to find board-ready women for shortlists. “We want to make it easier at the earlier stages. When we speak to women at this senior level they always mention how mentors helped them. We need to scale this,” she adds.

* is running an employer roundtable on women in technology next week which will result in a white paper that will be available free of charge on our website later in the month.

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