Women in Rail’s “repowered” Mentoring Programme: our reasons for repowering, key features and how you can take part!

On Thursday 4th October, Women in Rail (WR) launched its 2018 Mentoring Programme (Programme). This year, we are asking organisations in UK rail to proactively support this cross-industry initiative by putting forward mentors and mentees from their own workforce a small cost of £250 per employee for the 9 months duration of the Programme. Below is an explanation of what drove us to repower, how the repowered Programme works, what participating organisations will get for their money and how you can take part.

From manual matching to matching by algorithm and more….

WR has been running a cross-industry mentoring programme for the last 4 years. The programme has been hugely successful with participation growing exponentially from 12 pairs in 2014 to 260 pairs in 2017. Up until last year, the matching of mentors and mentees was an entirely manual process carried out by WR Mentoring Team. However, last year, with 520 mentors and mentees to match, this manual process proved very challenging. To ensure the continued success of the Programme, we decided that for 2018, we would “repower” it as a cutting edge cross-industry mentoring initiative and reach out to organisations in UK rail, encouraging them to proactively support the scheme and help us run it as a sustainable, scalable and transferrable cross-industry mentoring Programme.

Partnering with Moving Ahead

This year, WR is collaborating with Moving Ahead, a specialist company that is behind the design and management of the mentoring algorithm which supports the matching of mentors and mentees for the hugely successful 30% Club, as well as the internal mentoring programmes of Deloitte, BT, Aviva, London Stock Exchange Group, Centrica, Marks and Spencer, HSBC, PwC, EY and BNY Mellon to name a few.

The purpose of the repowered WR Mentoring Programme is to continue the work of WR and to provide a support platform for men and women in UK rail, champion diverse thinking, cross-fertilisation of ideas and networks and promote diversity in rail, starting with gender diversity as the core focus, but embracing broader diversity over time.

Key features of the repowered Programme

The repowered WR Mentoring Programme retains its unique selling point of a cross-industry mentoring initiative where mentees are matched with a mentor from a different company, based on the requirements they have entered on their profile (which include location, personal interests, technical skills and experience).

As in previous years, mentors will be men and women working in UK rail. This year, mentees will only be women. However from next year, WR intends to open the Programme to men (and women) working in UK rail, to ensure that everyone employed in our industry has an opportunity to benefit from this initiative.

Under the Programme, each mentor and mentee will be given access to an intranet where they will load their profile, answering specific questions designed to ensure accurate matching. The matching will be carried out by an algorithm with each match being reviewed and approved by the WR Mentoring Team. Mentors and mentees will receive professional training via an online learning platform, live workshops and Masterclasses. They will also be invited to attend 3 networking events where they will have an opportunity to ask questions, receive additional guidance but also expand their network within the UK railway industry.


From this year, the Programme will be funded by companies (Participating Companies) from the UK railway industry willing to take part, participation being entirely voluntary.

For a fee of £5,000 (c. £250 per individual), each Participating Company will be able to put forward up to 10 mentoring pairs (10 mentors and 10 mentees) from their own organisation.

Each company will nominate a Programme Partner whose task will be to lead the programme internally, put forward individuals and review matches proposed by WR Mentoring Team. Programme Partners will receive training and will be supported throughout the duration of the Programme.

The £250 fee includes, for each mentor and mentee: matching (and re-matching if necessary), access to all learning materials (briefing documents, videos, literature), training and access to all training materials (digital, guides and in-person, including Masterclasses), three networking events and ongoing support throughout the 9 months of the Programme.

New! Pro-Bono Fund

As part of its repowered Programme, WR is also creating a charitable fund, the Pro-bono Fund.

The purpose of the Pro-Bono Fund will be to enable women associated with the UK railway industry to take part in the Programme as a mentee free of charge (a Pro-Bono female mentee).

Eligible women will be job seekers, women in transition, on care leave, or women from organisations not able to take part in the Programme, with consideration being given to WR’s core aim of promoting diversity in UK rail. Of course, specific and strict eligibility criteria will apply.

The Pro-Bono Fund will be sponsored by Participating Companies who, when signing up, will be made aware of this initiative and given an opportunity to either:

  • put forward 1 additional mentor (i.e. 11 mentors and 10 mentees), or
  • put forward 1 less mentee than mentors (i.e. 10 mentors and 9 mentees); and/or
  • make a donation of £250 to sponsor a Pro-Bono mentoring place for a Pro-Bono female mentee.

The Programme is endorsed by the DfT and supported by RDG, BEIS, Morson and Network Rail.

Key Programme steps:

4th October 2018:     Launch of the repowered Women in Rail Mentoring Programme

12th October:    Registration of interest opens. Participating Companies complete the online questionnaire available on the WR website, identifying their Programme Partner and the number of mentoring pairs they intend to enter. Following registration, the WR Mentoring Team contacts the Programme Partner and send initial literature. The WR Mentoring Team arranges a training sessions for the Programme Partner (this includes a briefing on the workings of the Programme, guidance on how to select mentors and mentees and a WebEx presentation on the WR Mentoring portal (if requested)). Selected Mentors and Mentees can attend such briefing and ask clarification questions to the WR Mentoring Team, if so requested by the Programme Partner.

11th December: A live streamed information session is hosted by the WR Mentoring team, giving practical tips on how to select mentors and mentees and support them on the Programme. The session wil also give Participating Organisations a chance to ask any question they may have.

17th December:  Registration of interest (online booking form from the WR website) closes. Programme Partners who have not identified their Mentors and Mentees should do so promptly. Once Mentors and Mentees have been selected by the Programme Partner and notified to the WR Mentoring Team, they are each given a link to a profile questionnaire to complete. The WR Mentoring Team has a dedicated helpline to support this process, should the Programme Partner, Mentors and Mentees have any queries.

5th January 2019: Mentors and Mentees details should have been confirmed and Mentors and Mentees should have completed their profiles.

10th January: Matching carried out by Atlas.

11th January: Mentors and Mentees matches are shared by the WR Mentoring Team for review and confirmation.

14th January: Mentors and Mentees matches are shared with the relevant Programme Partners, in confidence. Matches are redone if necessary.

16th January: Matches are confirmed and ready to be notified.

17th January:  Mentoring relationship Kick-off Event. Theme: key mentoring skills to help set up for success, the importance of growth mindset and listening skills, the roles and expectation of each Mentor and Mentee. The event includes a Mentee and Mentor Masterclass/learning session.

18th January: (the day after the Kick-Off Event): Mentors and Mentees are notified of their matches and given log-in details to access Athena (digital mentoring training tool, including a pre-launch guide and a quick start guide to effective mentoring in hard copy).

Mid-February 2019:  The WR Mentoring Team carries out an early check-in on the Programme. Any necessary adjustment is made.

May 2019:  The WR Mentoring Team seeks mid-way feedback and arranges a mid-way networking event for all participants. Theme: the importance of feedback and recognising what you have achieved so far, setting new goals for the remainder of the Programme (if necessary).

September 2019: Closing event and final evaluation. Theme: anchoring the learnings from the past 9 months, longer term benefits of mentoring, celebrate success through Mentor and Mentee of the Year Award.

We are very excited about the repowered Programme and look forward to working with you on this cross-industry initiative!

Best wishes,

The Mentoring Team.