Main content | back to top
Maternity Mentoring pilot takes baby steps
Overlooking the majestic view of the London Eye at Shell’s London HQ, I met up with Janine Albrecht-Webb, who is part of a pioneering project to help women on maternity leave make a smooth transition back into work.
Janine Albrecht-Webb has been at Shell for more than 12 years and works as a Mobile Payments Manager in Retail Marketing. Her priorities took a dramatic shift after she had two children.
She came back to work full-time, but she wasn’t entirely happy with the decision. After overcoming numerous obstacles, she was able to negotiate a working arrangement that suited both her and Shell. The arrangement has been hailed such a success that she was mentioned as an exemplar of Shell’s commitment to advancing women in business by Ben van Beurden, and she was one of a number of mentors invited to take part in a pilot of a Maternity Mentoring Project in the UK.
Janine explains: “The Maternity Mentoring pilot is an initiative lead by Alison Felix-Moore (Fuels Scientist Additive Coordinator) and Andrea Parker (VP of Safety, Environment and Social Performance) that the UK Shell Women’s Network has driven working with HR and the businesses in the UK to help women feel closer to Shell.
It ensures they are supported before and during their maternity leave, and when they come back to work. It also ensures that there is constant communication throughout their leave period.” Increasingly, Janine argues, the women were feeling “disconnected while they were away”, a situation compounded if they were first-time mothers. Because all the mentors are mothers, women feel able to voice any concerns or doubts.
The Maternity Mentoring project was initiated in September 2012 and the first pilot is now ongoing. The first group of mentors attended a day-long workshop run by MyFamilyCare where they were fully briefed on the project and their role within it.
They were then paired off with mentees. Even though the pilot has gone off to a great start, there still remain some potentially longstanding obstacles. “The challenge so far for Alison and Andrea, who run the mentoring programme, has been to identify potential mentees”, Janine admits. “You would think that everybody would want to have this. However, it is difficult for them to find mentees as information regarding people who are due to go on maternity leave in the next three to five months is confidential.
So unless potential mentees are asking for this help, it’s difficult for the organisers to know who might want to be involved.”
If the pilot is a success, it could well be a permanent project and rolled out to other markets. “My former HR Manager, who helped me with my flexible working, is now in the US.
She’s taken the materials and will investigate if she can do something similar in the US,” says Janine. “I’ve received a lot of emails from people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, so I think in these markets it will be very nice for women to have this type of support.”
But how will the success of the pilot be measured? “Alison and Andrea are setting up some Key Performance Indicators, and will be getting feedback from mentors, mentees and the mentee line managers by assessing the level of confidence of the mentees when they have to return to work.
So in an ideal world, we would like to have women feel they are prepared to come back to work, and they know that Shell is supporting them along the way.”
The Maternity Mentoring project has high level support from, among others, the UK Country Chair, Ed Daniels, and Sally Martin, the UK president of the Shell Women’s Network. It has the potential to be a key differentiator for Shell, an employer that understands that once you start having children, “it’s not only about business, it’s also about raising a family.”