How the Australian Mines and Metals Association used virtual mentoring to increase women’s participation in the workforce


We’re all well aware of the changing demographics of our society, and the impact this will have on our organisations.* For many member-based organisations this means creating relevance and value based on the problems experienced within different generations. Baby boomers are retiring and taking significant knowledge and experience with them. There are fewer Gen Xers to fill paid and volunteer leadership roles, and significant demands on their time. Millennials are nipping at their heels to advance in their careers quickly.


For many organisations, a structured mentoring program offers a way to provide tangible value for members. For those more advanced in their careers it is an opportunity both to give back and to learn more about the challenges facing the younger generation. For young people, it is an opportunity to access one-on-one feedback and advice, and to establish networks within the industry.


For the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) mentoring offered a solution to an even greater problem. The AMMA, an industry employer group, were specifically challenged to increase women’s participation in the resources, allied and related construction sectors – both to attract them to the sector and support them to stay. Due to the nature of the sector, this challenge additionally required the AMMA to work around jobs being in very remote locations plus complex rosters.


In 2011, the AMMA had built the Australian Women in Resources Alliance (AWRA), a national workplace gender diversity initiative, with the goal of increasing the participation of women in the sector. AWRA created the mentoring initiative and received Australian Government funding to support the program.


What they did

The AWRA virtual mentoring program was developed and rolled out in early 2013.  The first phase ran from February 2013 to May 2014 with 100 mentor-mentee pairs. Learnings from this experience then informed program design for a second phase, which is currently in progress.


Communication between mentors and mentees was via telephone, Skype and email.


Key elements of the program were an online management platform, opportunities for additional connections, and training tools.


AWRA used an online mentoring platform to manage the program efficiently. The platform provided:

  • an algorithm for computer generated mentor/mentee matching;
  • a central platform for participant applications and communications;
  • an online portal for mentoring resource materials.

In addition to the mentee-mentor relationship, additional connections were made between participants through using a share experience model. The program was structured in cohorts to allow participants (mentees in particular) to feel connected to a wider group.


Training tools were essential. In particular a 20-minute video was added in phase two to address the rate of mentee drop out seen in phase one. This was compulsory viewing and clearly explained program expectations, so potential mentees could make an informed choice about participation. Webinars were provided for mentors and mentees for both phases. For phase two, multimedia online training modules were also used. Material included video demonstrations of key mentoring skills, mentor and mentee interviews and downloadable mentoring tools. Regular evaluation was also incorporated into the program.


Results and key learnings

The AWRA e-Mentoring Program has been running successfully for three years and has worked with over 350 mentors and mentees.  It was used as a case study in a presentation to the 2015 Global Summit of Women.

It also delivered some exciting learnings about the potential of virtual mentoring.


Properly managed, a virtual mentoring program can be just as effective as face-to-face.  Program evaluation scores were found to be very similar to those you would expect from a well-run, traditional program:

  • 95% of participants said they had achieved the goals they set for themselves
  • 17% of mentees rated the experience as “one of the best things I have done”
  • 87% of mentees said they would stay in contact with the mentors

The ability of virtual mentoring to provide access to mentoring from across a very broad geographic base proved valuable both at an association and individual level. Feedback included:

  • “The real value of the e-Mentoring program is that each mentee has access to the most appropriate mentor from a variety of levels in the industry anywhere in the country.”  Tara Diamond, AMMA Executive Director of Industry
  • “What’s great is that I wasn’t just limited to mentors in WA; there’s a whole nation involved across different resource related sectors.  There is no way I would have connected with Scott if it wasn’t for this program.”  Shauna Martin, Mentee
  • “Because I travel a lot I always felt I couldn’t make a commitment to a mentee when I wasn’t actually going to be physically present.  So the fact that (this program) is based online…made it easy to manage my travel and make a commitment to others.”  Michele Tracey, Mentor

Administration was also important. Because of the nature of virtual relationships, mentoring pairs require greater follow up than in a face-to-face program, and program managers play a key role.


High quality training materials are also important, and must be developed or sourced to ensure that participants have the skills needed for a successful relationship.  The addition of detailed multi-media online training modules in phase two proved more effective than reliance solely on webinars.


Where to next?

AWRA’s third phase of the AWRA e-Mentoring Program takes it through to 2018. At that point it will be time for a major review of data collected over five years. It will be interesting to see whether mentoring has been able to shift the dial for attraction and retention of women in the sector.

Art of Mentoring can help any organization launch, run or evaluate a mentoring program. For more information please contact us or take a look at our website.


The AMMA case study originally appeared on the Art of Mentoring website,

If you are thinking of adding a mentoring service to your membership program, if you’re ready to get started and would like more information, or if you have a story to share please contact


Art of Mentoring are offering training courses  in Sydney and Melbourne, or can tailor a program directly to your needs. 


*Your organisation not quite caught up to you yet? Share Membership is Dead and leave a copy of the Membership Managers Handbook lying on the lunch table, open at a relevant page.

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