EQUAL – A Distinctly European Experience

ERIEC has always had an interest in exploring different mentorship programs that exist in other parts of the world. What are they doing in India or in Africa that might be different from the mentorship experiences here in Canada? What types of innovations might we incorporate into our models to provide a more effective mentoring outcome or experience?

One that caught our attention recently is a project called EQUAL. This mentorship initiative is based on a transnational partnership model that was developed to help overcome gender segregation in the labour market by implementing strategies for cultural and practical change, specifically in the engineering, construction and ICT sectors.

As it is the case in many countries around the world, it is difficult for women to find work in these typically non-traditional occupations. EQUAL helps women to challenge these systemic barriers and overcome occupational segregation and then mainstreams these best practices in each of their participating countries.

Funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), EQUAL tests new ways of addressing discrimination and inequality experienced by those currently in the workplace and for  those looking for a job. Working with the concept of reducing gender gaps and supporting job desegregation, they recognize mentoring as an effective method to support women within the workplace. Each participating partner has developed their own variation of a mentoring program which has been designed to reflect their own organizational cultural practice.

The lead partner JIVE (Joint Interventions) Partners, which is based out of Great Britain, is a partnership made up of ten organisations in England and Wales that are working together. JIVE provides models and strategies for breaking down barriers and tackling gender stereotyping in the engineering, construction and technology sectors. These models and strategies have been helpful in addressing current skill shortages and have been instrumental in reducing the gender pay gap.

Another interesting example from Europe is the case of Deutsche Telekom from Germany, which promotes equality amongst its employees. Approximately one-third of their employees are women but are under-represented in the upper management levels of the corporation.

They have developed a mentoring program that is supported and funded by EQUAL that involves a mix of corporate and organizational partners based within the city of Berlin (i.e. banks, insurance firms, governmental organisations and Non-government organizations) and Deutsche Telekom is responsible for taking the lead on this project. Their cross -mentoring approach has many benefits for both the mentor and mentee as they both learn from each other’s distinct experiences and about each other’s companies, not to mention developing a better understanding of the systemic barriers facing women in the workplace.

“Mentoring and other measures of support aimed at women must also be developed in the future. It is not enough that women are tempted to study the fields in question. In addition to this, special solutions are needed within the working life in order for women to stay in the jobs within industry and technology”,

(Marjo Matikainen-Kallström, Graduate Engineer & Member of the European Parliament 1996-2004 , Finland)

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