The event was arranged by the Norwegian Centre for Equality, the Swedish Minerva Foundation and KVINFO’s Mentor Network in Denmark, who together established a Nordic mentor network in 2014 to gather the Nordic expertise and create a forum for cooperation around the many challenges mentors and mentoring programmes face.
Gender perspective cornerstone of mentoring projects
There are plenty of mentoring programmes across the Nordic region, but one thing the three collaborating organisations have in common is their focus on the gender perspective.
‘Mentoring can be useful at many levels, with many groups and in many contexts. The work can be tailored to the group you’re working with, and to its specific challenges. But what’s unique about what we do is the gender angle. That’s what brings us together,’ says Ree-Lindstad.
All three organisations have implemented mentoring programmes specifically targeting women. But today the programmes often also include men.
‘When we train mentors, we try to make them aware that gender can play a role in how you work and how you relate to your mentee. They need to be aware of the structures in society,’ she explains.
A special Nordic approach
‘The Nordic cooperation gives us a professional environment where we can learn from each other. Instead of learning by doing, we can learn from each other’s experiences,’ says Ree-Lindstad.
‘The Nordic mentoring model differs from how it’s usually done in the rest of Europe and in the U.S. We want it to be voluntary and free, and it should be a win-win situation for both the mentor and the mentee. The mutual learning experience, where the mentors use the mentoring work for their own development, is of central importance. In the rest of Europe, mentors are often paid and have a role resembling that of a social worker. In the Nordic countries, that type of work is already taken care of by other actors in the welfare systems,’ says Ree-Lindstad.
Professional development and quality are important
The whole point is to develop the quality of the mentoring work, says Ree-Lindstad. To this end, the network seminar, which gathered directors of 12 Norwegian, 13 Danish and seven Swedish mentoring projects, included a presentation of Swedish and Danish best practice cases as well as discussions on how high quality can be ensured. The quality factor is a central aspect of Ree-Lindstad’s vision for the Nordic cooperation.
‘We need to find opportunities to meet. We will prioritise professional development so we can develop the mentoring as a method and thus increase the quality of the work. Admittedly, there is some variation in the quality of the mentoring. If we can build up the competence of those who are involved in these programmes, the quality will go up and more people can be offered good mentoring services. In the future, we will also look closer at how we can evaluate the mentoring and its effects,’ says Ree-Lindstad.
This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.