Economia interview Peninah Thomson for November 2014 Article
This article first appeared in the November 2014 edition of economia magazine.
Exactly 16 years ago Peninah Thomson, former director in PwC’s corporate transformation practice, found herself coaching nine young businesspeople – six male and three female – and hit upon a problem. "My female clients were very confident and experienced but they weren’t progressing anywhere near as fast as my male clients," says Thomson. "I started researching and realised there were factors holding them back." The reasons, she says, are many (and the basis of a whole other feature). But what’s interesting is how Thomson responded.
Determined to help, and to address the fact that women then held just 6.2% of FTSE 100 director positions, Thomson decided to set up what would become the FTSE 100® Cross-Company Mentoring Executive Programme. Established in 2003, it links female executives with Chairs and chief executives of both genders. "There was absolutely nothing like it," explains Thomson. "Then a few years later other embryonic mentoring programmes started bubbling up. It was wonderful. People were starting to get active."
Fast forward a decade and the scene is very different. Thomson’s programme currently has 63 mentees and 70 mentors on its books, including industry heavyweights like PwC Chair Ian Powell, and the model has been copied in 13 countries. Thomson earned an OBE for her efforts and the financial services sector is now humming with mentoring programmes.