ICAS launches Career Connections, a new mentoring platform seeking diverse mentors
As ICAS launches its new mentoring platform, Anna Melville-James speaks to two CAs who welcome its boldly modern and inclusive approach to paying it forward
Mentoring is good news for everyone. For mentees, the advice of someone further down the career track is an invaluable aid as they build a career; for mentors, it is a chance to give back to the next generation of CAs – and perhaps learn something in turn about the younger professional’s perspective. But today’s increasingly diverse workforce also needs to be met by a more representative mentoring pool to be truly effective and play a key part in the wider drive for greater equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).
The sooner that people are able to be comfortable bringing their whole self to work and applying that confidence to their careers, the better.
A modern mentoring relationship needs an inbuilt awareness of the intersectional challenges and viewpoints that come with a diverse workforce, whether that’s socioeconomic background, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability – and this is something that ICAS is addressing with its new Career Connections mentoring platform.
For Hamisha Mehta CA, ICAS EDI Committee member and Mentoring Champion, alongside her job as Chief Financial Officer at Know You More, it’s an exciting development for the accountancy talent pipeline. “I became interested in mentoring because, throughout my career, I’ve struggled to find mentors who are reflective of me. I want to change this for future generations,” she says. “We know CA students come from a broader range of backgrounds than their predecessors, many of whom are in senior leadership roles now. For me, it’s essential that newer CAs have visibility of and access to role models who have similar lived experiences they can aspire to.”
ICAS has invested heavily in showcasing the breadth of CAs among the membership, particularly with the Championing Unique Perspectives campaign. “Mentoring builds on the visibility created through such campaigns,” says Mehta. “It adds a personal relationship that enables mentor and mentee to learn from the other’s experiences. ICAS is in a great position to bring CAs together and actively support members through facilitating mentoring relationships as they navigate their careers. Members have a huge amount of knowledge and want to share that. The Career Connections platform is making that easier to do.”
Potential mentors and mentees can talk about what they are looking for in their mentoring relationship and share as many criteria as they like on the platform. In collating this information, the platform empowers CAs to make choices and connections that can really benefit them – including making mentors visible at intersections that might not be immediately obvious, such as socioeconomic background, neurodiversity or even parenthood.
“As a mother of two, I seek the perspectives and experiences of women who have integrated back into work following maternity leave and navigated the challenges of childcare and full-time work,” notes Mehta. “Others may look for mentors who can provide advice around a particular area of their career or skills development; for example, changing career direction, learning leadership skills or understanding how to manage teams. Being able to talk to someone who’s been through these experiences and can share what worked and what didn’t is really beneficial.”
Trusting the process
For Gary Motherwell CA, Finance Director at Golden Charter and an ICAS EDI Committee member, the new platform is a powerful foundation that will need to be continually built upon. “EDI is not a ‘one-and-done’ thing,” says Motherwell. “It will be about keeping that momentum and that data collection going over time because not everyone will be willing to offer that information first time around, for example, if they’ve been discriminated against for any reason. For ICAS it’s probably an ongoing process of asking for the information to get to a stage where everyone’s comfortable sharing it. That relies on people feeling safe and knowing that it is going to be used for the right reasons.”
Motherwell, who has been an ICAS Foundation mentor for five years, was the first in his family to go to university and is a member of the LGBT+ community. Finding relationships with relatable mentors is, for him, at the base of successful mentoring.
“Relationships have to be based on trust and honesty and you should feel able to speak openly about anything in a mentoring relationship,” he says. “I wouldn’t have talked to my mentors 10 years ago about things in my life that were to do with being gay, for example, so having mentors who are open about their identity, and people being able to select that in the matching process, is really important. Representation matters.”
Ultimately, the benefit of inclusive mentoring is its ability to create support and engender confidence in all types of people at all stages of their career so that they can fulfil their professional potential.
“The sooner that people are able to be comfortable bringing their whole self to work and applying that confidence to their careers, the better,” says Motherwell. “If people aren’t able to find someone they can identify with as a mentor it can hold them back. If you can’t find that person in the company you work for, hopefully you can find that through the ICAS platform.”
Learn more about ICAS’ Career Connections mentoring platform