Santander launches expanded women in business mentoring scheme for SME leaders

  • The Breakthrough Women Business Leaders Mentoring Programme is Santander’s most ambitious programme focussing on women in SMEs and will match 90 mentees with 90 mentors

Santander UK is launching its most ambitious Women Business Leaders’ Mentoring Programme to date, as part of its Breakthrough programme. The scheme will specifically focus on mentoring women in SMEs to help their business grow and will be powered by the social enterprise, Women Ahead.

The mentoring programme will be available for female founders of businesses with a turnover of up to £3 million which have been running for at least one year. The chosen mentees will be mentored by both men and women business leaders, and is entirely funded by Santander.

The programme will incorporate 180 participants: 90 mentors and 90 mentees across the UK. Mentees will be the key decision makers in the company, whether that be the founder, owner, or Managing Director. The mentors must have proven leadership qualities and could be an owner of their own business or a senior leader within a large organisation. The mentors and mentees must have contact at least once a month and will be matched as geographically close to each other as possible, so they can meet face-to-face regularly.

SMEs make up 99%1 of private sector businesses so helping them to scale up and reach their potential will have a direct positive impact to the UK economy. The Women and Work Commission2 also found that unleashing women’s full potential could be worth £23 billion a year to the Exchequer, but only four per cent of women are engaged in entrepreneurial activity, compared to nine per cent of men.

Louise Robinson, Head of Breakthrough, Santander said: “Santander is a strong supporter of women business leaders and has been offering support and networking events via its Breakthrough programme since 2011.

“We believe that with the right level of support, we can help business grow from start up to a growing SME. Our ambition is to create a Women Business Leaders’ network across the country which not only benefits the individuals themselves, but also their businesses, the local economy and ultimately the broader UK economy.”

Mentors and mentees will be given training to understand the programme’s purpose, vision, their role and any boundaries. They will also be equipped with the skills to have effective conversations. The training will be provided via highly effective digital training videos and learning materials.

Prospective mentors and mentees can apply online1 and the deadline for applications is 5 October. The programme itself will start on 7 November once the mentors and mentees have been matched, and will run through to July 2019.

To be eligible for this programme the mentee must be the owner or majority shareholder of a business, with an annual turnover of between £50,000 and £6.5 million. They must have been trading for at least one year and be capable of scaling up the business and boosting local employment.

Liz Dimmock, Founder and CEO, Women Ahead said: “Women Ahead is delighted to be partnering with Santander Breakthrough to deliver their mentoring programme. As an entrepreneur myself, I understand just how daunting and overwhelming it can sometimes feel to go it alone. It’s a massive but rewarding step and one I’ve never regretted. Mentoring has enabled me to make this leap to set up the organisation I love, to embrace the (many!) challenges along the way and to always process and learn from the setbacks and success. “


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Notes to Editors


Women Ahead is a social enterprise which focuses on reducing the gap between men and women with the belief that better gender parity will benefit individuals, organisations and society as a whole. Women Ahead also manages the 30% Club cross company mentoring programme.  

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. It has brought real competition to the UK, through its innovative products for retail customers and relationship banking model for UK SMEs. At 30 June 2018, the bank has c24,200 employees. It serves around 15 million active customers, via a nationwide branch network, telephone, mobile and online banking; and 64 regional Corporate Business Centres. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

About Us
Banco Santander (SAN SM, STD US, BNC LN) is a leading retail and commercial bank, founded in 1857 and headquartered in Spain. It has a meaningful market share in 10 core markets in Europe and the Americas, and is the largest bank in the euro zone by market capitalization. At the end of June 2018, Banco Santander had EUR 981 billion in customer funds (deposits and mutual funds), 140 million customers, 13,500 branches and 200,000 employees. Banco Santander made attributable profit of EUR 3,752 million in the first half of 2018, an increase of 4% compared to the same period last year.

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