Mentor Walks celebrates 1 year in Canberra

11 March 2020

The organisers of Canberra's Mentor Walks have been so impressed with the turnout of mentees, they have added extra dates into the calendar for this year's round of walks.

The walks, which allow young women to meet with successful mentors so they can ask them how they've juggled the many challenges they've faced to succeed with their careers, celebrated their first birthday on Friday 6 March, 2020.

Each of the walks takes place around Lake Burley Griffin at 7.15am and runs for 45 minutes to an hour. Mentees, who register for the program, ask a specific question. The Mentor Walks team then do a matching exercise to pair mentees and mentors together.

This year's Mentor Walks are largely book-ended to the warmer months of the year to take advantage of the lighter mornings in autumn and spring.

ANU Director of Human Resources, Dr Nadine White, helped bring the Mentor Walks program to Canberra.

She says its been so successful they have one walk planned for approximately every six weeks throughout 2020.

"It's really heart-warming to see the difference you're making at the end of the walk," Nadine says.

"You've got a little bit of a sweat up but you're also sharing some great experiences with people and you know they're setting off on their day, their week, their year knowing they have the benefit of some of your experiences, which means it might not be quite so difficult in the workplace for them."

Lots of mentees are new Mums and are starting out a new business, career or having to make decisions around the pathways they will have to take next, she says, but mentees often help each other out as well.

"They understand that there are other people who are having similar experiences to them so it doesn't make you feel quite so lonely in that decision-making process."

Questions that are asked to mentors could be as specific as how to ask for a pay-rise or how to better balance work and family commitments.

"Often its about giving people the resilience and confidence to be able to ask for something that they're looking for," Nadine says.

"It's also about helping them manage work-life balance and the experience that we as mentors have all had in terms of juggling a whole bunch of commitments."

Mentor Walks started in Australia by entrepreneurs Bobbi Mahlab and Adina Jacobs after participating in the program in in China. The two of them decided they wanted to bring Mentor Walks to Australia and they originally started in Sydney.

"I met Bobbi Mahlab in Alice Springs coincidentally and we started talking about what each other does and I went 'wow this is a great program, we've been looking for something to actually commence our mentoring body of work at ANU so we went let's try this here in Canberra, we've got lots of iconic locations."

Nadine says ANU sponsored MentorWalks commencing in Canberra through the support of Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt, because he believed in ANU being a leader on this issue in Canberra.

"Brian was incredibly supportive of this and he didn't even think twice about supporting it and it was really great for him to do that considering we don't actually allow men to go on the walks.

"We wanted to make this about women in Canberra, so that's how we started it."

Over Nadine's career, she says she's had lots of mentors.

"Some have been the supervisors, others have been people who I've sought out and wanted to get advice from, but certainly there's always been somebody that I can turn to to ask some very specific questions about my career."

Despite its success, the team are always on the hunt for new mentors and mentees.

"We've got lots of mentors from public sector, university sector, private enterprise, industry associations. We've also got non-executive directors, we've got a couple of people that run their own businesses, and are entrepreneurs and we're looking to expand that. We've also got people from the big four firms, but we're always looking for additional mentors."

New mentees are always welcome to attend, she says.

"We're not asking people to sign up for 12 months, we're just asking you to come along and enjoy a walk for 45 minutes to an hour and to have the experience of walking in an iconic location with an amazing bunch of women," Nadine says.

The number one benefit for mentors is the capacity to give back, she says.

"You might not always think you can give something back but based on the experiences of mentees and the feedback they give us we know they are incredibly grateful for the advice, consideration and support that they receive from each of the mentors.

"So there is a bit of a heart-warming experience in giving something back to the next generation of future women leaders. Just seeing how the next generation of females is actually shaping up is something that's pretty incredible and having a hand in that is also heart-warming as well."

Register to attend the next Mentor Walk, on 29 April, either as a mentee OR a mentor at https://mentorwalks.com.au/become-a-mentee-canberra/