Meet Lis Merrick, Managing Director of Coach Mentoring
Our interview with Lis:
Can you introduce yourself in a couple of sentences?
Following a successful career in Human Resources with Merrill Lynch, European Investment Banking and The Thomas Cook Group, I moved into a consultancy career in mentoring and coaching. I am Managing Director of Coach Mentoring Limited, a boutique coaching and mentoring consultancy, based in the UK but which operates globally. I am also the ISMCP Accreditation Chair (European Mentoring and Coaching Council International Standards for Mentoring and Coaching Programmes).
When did you first get involved in gender equity and why?
I think working in a very male dominated culture at Merrill Lynch was the catalyst for my interest in gender equity. Following this role, I joined a European Social Fund Project in 2000 to develop women’s mentoring in non-traditional area’s for women such as engineering and construction and witnessed some appalling inequity that women were facing in these industries. I wrote my Masters dissertation on ‘Mentoring Women through the Concrete Ceiling in the Construction Industry’. These early experiences have informed my interest in supporting women in the workplace and to improve gender balance.
How are you currently involved in gender equity initiatives through your company / position?
Since 2004, I have continued my passion working on mentoring programmes to support gender equity and I also use my skills as an Executive Coach to work with senior leaders to open their eyes to some of the second-generation bias (more invisible forms of cultural assumptions and practices that inadvertently benefit men, whilst putting women at a disadvantage) that abound in organisational settings. I regularly write and speak about gender equity also.
What about women’s empowerment?
When women recognise the subtle effects of second-generation bias they tend to take action to counter the impact and generally thrive better. Behaviours such as putting themselves forward for a role, even when they don’t feel qualified, or reaching out and finding a mentor are all behaviours, which make it easier for a woman to operate on a more level playing field with a man. I focus much of my coaching and mentoring activities on making women more self aware, so they can empower themselves in these type of situations.
And what about men?
I find men who are husbands, partners, fathers of working women tend to have a much more realistic outlook on gender equity and understand how to empower women they work alongside or who are in their teams. However, men need supporting and educating in how they encourage women to develop, lead and operate in the workplace. Women face considerable challenges when they are not perceived as ‘ideal workers’, perhaps do not get as much support as they need from their immediate boss or face a lack of real role models. Men can step in here and bridge some of these gaps by being more proactive in supporting the women working around them to overcome these hurdles.