Agencies Agency Culture Diversity & Inclusion

Vicious cycle to virtuous circle: the impact of mentorship on women’s mental health

By Tara Miskelly | Account Manager, M&C Saatchi One-to-One

M&C Saatchi


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June 5, 2023 | 9 min read

Tara Miskelly and Aliza Lalani of M&C Saatchi Group give us a look under the hood of the organization’s women’s mentorship programs, including commentary from the women involved.

Grayscale image of woman sitting on sofa

Women-led mentorship programs foster a sense of safety and organizational understanding / Sigmund

There’s still a long path ahead for individuals who identify as women in the workplace – even with all the recent progress made.

The obstacles women face impact their mental health, which underpins every part of a good personal and professional ecosystem from how they feel about themselves to how they deliver impact for clients and teams. But how can companies create an environment that supports women’s mental health? One answer: the mentorship of women, by women.

Women mentoring women

Mentorship plays a crucial role in career success, with best-case outcomes leading to increased retention and promotions for underrepresented groups. And when women in leadership mentor other women, we see compound benefits for well-being.

This is why we started two cross-network mentorship programs: the US-focused Women’s Mentorship Program (launched by M&C Saatchi One-to-One), and the Global Mentorship Program which extends to all employee groups.

We see mentorship as a critical investment. As the conversation around workplace mental health develops, here are three ways in which the mentorship of women by women contributes to positive mental health.

1. Improving confidence

We’ve seen first-hand how mentorship boosts confidence in our abilities and in making decisions that feel right for us. As Adrienne Rice, our director of media investment, put it: “[my mentor] has been my sounding board for tricky work situations, offering a perspective devoid of biases or office politics”.

It’s especially useful when mentors and mentees come from different companies under the same parent organization. There’s an understanding of organizational culture, but being one step removed adds objectivity and psychological safety on both sides. Creating a safe space with context, without judgment, gives mentees confidence to pursue goals with conviction. This builds confidence in what individuals bring to the table.

We love the framing from a Forbes article: “Every woman needs to begin with the premise around a sense of deserving… self-care equals self-worth". For us, the opposite is also true: having strong self-worth is a form of self-care. When mentors help mentees recognize their strengths, they’re actively supporting mental health.

Or as my colleague Tara Miskelly (account manager, One-to-One) put it, “I truly value having such an intelligent, compassionate mentor who has given me the confidence to tackle challenging situations in a way that’s both direct and empathetic.”

2. Creating a strong support system

Support systems are often seen as friends and family. However, making coworkers part of your support system can only benefit mental health. Having a powerful, trusted workplace ally supercharges that benefit.

Mentors and mentees can learn from, inspire, and uplift each other. The resulting bonds help with everything from getting comfortable with failure to learning to accept help, professionally or personally.

Here’s Aliza Lalani (marketing manager, Clear M&C Saatchi): “In our cross-company office, I’m lucky to see my mentor outside our scheduled sessions. She always makes time to check in about situations we’ve discussed – these interactions can turn a day around and provide a positive outlet for stress”.

And here’s Ling Groccia (associate strategist, SS+K): “Having someone who understands the realm of your work but can also provide insights into different facets of the industry is invaluable”.

3. Inviting diversity of thought (then turning it into action)

Mentorship opens the door for powerful conversations. When we create environments where experiences can be shared, we invite diverse thinking that fuels collaboration and challenges us to do better.

The show Ted Lasso perfectly encapsulates this. To quote the show, “[You’ve] built a culture of trust and support through thousands of imperceptible moments, all leading to their inevitable conclusion”. A structured mentorship program with leadership buy-in does this, between individuals and within companies, plus a framework to feed that thinking upward and create structural change.

A good mentor/mentee relationship is symbiotic. Mentors can shift perspectives on how to approach their teams, strengthening leadership abilities and improving company culture as they look to attract and promote diverse talent. Mentees feel set up for success when their opinions are valued, and their interests are protected. Mentorship can turn the vicious circle that women have faced in the workplace into a virtuous circle where diversity of thought and collective action take the wheel.

Here’s what Amanda Skudlarek (executive creative director, Clear) had to say: “When we seek to learn from others in an honest, humble way, we create room to grow. I feel privileged for the opportunity to share learnings with other women and connect in ways that help me lead with compassion. Inviting these two-way conversations improves all outcomes: for ourselves and our overall well-being, for our businesses and clients.”

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Her words say it best

My colleague Georgia Graham-Leigh (managing director, One-to-One) summed things up: “While I can provide help and advice from my own experiences, I was excited to learn from my mentees based on their experiences and what culture demands of us all. The program has facilitated conversations that go beyond career development. It provides a safe space to ensure mental health is cared for”.

Mentorship is a powerful tool, and one of its most valuable and overlooked benefits is supporting the mental health of those who are underrepresented in company leadership.

In our experience, women mentoring women is one of the best ways to do this. Connecting individuals who understand the unique challenges women face creates powerful individual impact and sets the stage, expectations, and culture for change that will help everyone thrive in our workplaces and beyond.

Agencies Agency Culture Diversity & Inclusion

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