LeaderSHE: moving the needle, one step at a time

By Lotus Smits, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Glovo December 1, 2021 · 6 min read

Many of us think that in 2021, career opportunities for women are endless and equal to our male counterparts. It’s not strange that we tend to think this, because if we look around, nowadays women are very well represented in almost all industries. This picture is incomplete.

Women are represented, but not everywhere. Especially not in high positions.

According to an article in HBR this year, still only 8% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women, and less than 1% by women of color. If we look at the start-up world, it does not get any better. Only around 3 % of the total capital invested in venture-backed startups in Europe was secured by women, and all-male founder teams received 90,8% of all capital raised. Regardless of all the efforts companies and governments make to drive change, those numbers stagnate year over year.

Most (tech) companies, like Glovo, are fully committed to advancing and developing women into leadership positions. We know the journey is long, but we are laser-focused on tackling the systemic barriers that keep women from progressing.

Zoe Er, program manager II, mentee:
“This is why programs like LeaderSHE are so crucial — by bringing more females up the leadership ladder, we add variety to management styles and ways of working that aspiring leaders can choose from, and decide what fits them best.”

With Glovo’s goal to achieve 45 % of women in Leadership positions by 2025, we still have a long way to go. Today we are at 32 %, which is above market average, but here at Glovo, average is not enough. We want to be role models, lift the industry around us, and show what ‘’good looks like’’.

We know there is no silver bullet that will move the needle, so we’re tackling this problem at all stages of the employee lifecycle: from attracting talent, to hiring, to integrating newbies, to developing talent, assessing performance, managing compensation and promotion, and retaining talent.

One of our recent initiatives, LeaderSHE — a global mentoring and skill development program, focused on accelerating the growth of women to the next step in their career — turned out to be a significant driver of change. During a period of 6 months, mentees benefited from 1–1 mentoring from senior leaders in Glovo, insightful workshops, peer buddy groups, LinkedIn learning access and a detailed action plan to work on their goals. In 6 months, out of the 56 women in the program, 19 (34%) got promoted to the next career band and another 5 (9%) got a lateral move with more responsibilities and visibility.

Meltem Naz Kaso Coskun, UX Researcher III, mentee:

“LeaderSHE helped me engage with my mentor and other participants, and learn from their experiences. It helped me understand — by exploring different cases and scenarios during our talks — how experienced leaders think, and how I can find my place at the table.”

Aleksandra Jovanovski, Strategic Account Team Manager, mentee:
“Together with other inspiring women we fostered a culture where we share our experience and help each other to develop. Mentoring sessions have been important to me as they granted me the opportunity to learn and be guided by amazing women that advised me on how to set goals and focus on implementing them. The last 6 months have been amazing and I can say that this program helped me to evolve, both when it comes to my career as well as regarding my personal development.”

Before the program started, we made it very clear in our communication that this program is not to ‘’fix women’’, because women don’t need to be fixed. We need to fix the broken systems where women and non-binary people work, but this takes time, and continuous effort and patience. Until we succeed in fixing the excluding systems, there are many interventions that companies can put in place to provide women with more equal access to opportunities — like mentoring.

At Glovo we see the LeaderSHE mentoring program not only as a benefit for the mentees, but as a two-way street where learning happens on both sides. In the closing survey, mentors reported several benefits for themselves as a result of participating. The insights suggest that a 6 month mentoring program for women has potential to be an effective organizational change intervention. In particular, men involved in the program increased their understanding and sensitivity regarding gender barriers in the workplace. Men who are allies for gender equality are vital to move the needle.

Elisa Pagliarini, Director, General Manager Italy, mentor of Aleksandra and Zoe:
“When you start a mentoring program the question you may ask yourself is: what am I going to give as a mentor to these young women? With LeaderSHE I got the answer: all of yourself! Listening, relating and sharing; from the best to the worst experiences, what made you stronger and what made you weaker, without judgement or opinions, but just lots of willingness to help each other.
I’ve realized sharing is bi-directional, and the experiences of these young women are an incredible source of learning!”

It’s important to move away from the idea that mentoring only benefits the mentee. LeaderSHE has shown us that a focus on what needs to change in the dominant organizational culture, practices and values can lead to key players in the organization becoming actively involved in the needed change process.

Some concluding words from a few of our LeaderSHE mentors and mentees:

Anna Via, Data scientist II, mentee:
“Throughout my professional career I’ve had to learn many skills, knowledge and strategies the hard way. LeaderSHE has allowed me to discover that many other women and allies have gone through similar experiences, and that we all would have benefited from others sharing learnings and experiences earlier in our careers. Better late than never, the program offered me a safe space where to discuss important career experiences and concerns, share and take advice from amazing professionals.”

Pietro Rancati, Manager engineer, mentor of Anna:
“I am really grateful I had the opportunity to participate in the LeaderSHE program. During several months of cooperation with my mentee, we established a safe space to openly discuss a range of different topics. It was inspiring to collaborate with my mentee and see her progression and willingness to learn even more. I myself learned a lot from this program and it was definitely a very rewarding experience from several aspects.”

Ines Lamosa, Incubator lead, mentee:
“LeaderShe meant dedicating time to focus on ourselves, on determining in which aspects we wanted to grow, and getting tools to be better versions of ourselves. Being part meant having an opportunity to create the leaders we want to have. Lastly, discussing topics with women all over the world, with different cultures and points of view was one of the most enriching things of the program.”

We are excited to launch the next version of LeaderSHE in 2022 to provide more mentees and mentors with opportunities to grow together!