Cherie Blair urged more experienced business people to consider becoming a mentor not just in order to help others but also for personal reward.
In her speech at Enterprise Rent-A-Car's celebration of International Women's Day, "Preparing For The Big Event", hosted by Taylor Wessing, Blair spoke of the role of mentoring in achieving the country's personal, corporate and economic development goals moving forwards.
She said: "Mentoring can be the spark that reignites your own interest in your business and your careers.When you give back, everyone gets."
Mentoring is central to the work of the Cherie Blair Foundation, which received support from Google to develop an Internet-based mentoring platform, which now connects hundreds of people in mentoring relationships across the globe.
Speaking of the value of mentoring, Blair added: "It's not simply about making opportunities available for women, it's about helping women to seize those opportunities. One of the ways to do this is mentoring: to have someone there to challenge, encourage, champion you can really make a difference.
"I particularly wanted to mentor women who can employ other women because that way you can engender development. Employers who sponsor mentoring schemes see retention rates increase. People who are mentors will say it's made a huge difference to them. Mentoring is also a great way to develop leadership skills because nurturing talent is such a vital leadership attribute."
Enterprise Rent-A-Car introduced a mentoring programme for high performing female managers to encourage more women to seize opportunities for promotion and development. In particular, this has focused on supporting women who want to sustain their career progression alongside having a family. In its first year, the programme has supported over 150 women, resulting in a promotion rate of almost 10 percent with retention at 95 percent.
Leigh Lafever-Ayer, Enterprise's corporate HR director UK & Ireland, who developed the mentoring programme, said: "As a business we can create schemes and opportunities for women to succeed but we must also support women to help them achieve their career goals. This is obviously particularly important when women reach a level of middle management after a few years with the company and also start to plan a family. That can be a critical point when many women think they need to put on the brakes and step back from work opportunities.
"The truth is, they don't need to. Yes, you have to make choices. But a woman's career doesn't have to take a back seat just because she has a baby. That's one of the big barriers that we are addressing through our one on one mentoring programme."
Sean Nesbitt, head of Taylor Wessing's employment and pensions group, added: "Ensuring diversity in both our business and the wider legal profession is a continuous commitment of Taylor Wessing. This is highlighted in the firm being shortlisted in The Lawyer Workplace and Diversity Awards 2012 for our strengths in upholding these values. International Women's Day provides an important occasion for us to celebrate what has been achieved and to re-state our commitment to progress in furthering opportunities for talented women at all levels."
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