Looking back on 10+ years of collaboration with Marsh McLennan

Exploring our impactful partnership.

This past decade presented new challenges, changes, and developments for women’s entrepreneurship in low and middle income countries. Across this period we have enjoyed a transformative partnership with Marsh McLennan on our sector-leading Mentoring Women in Business programme. This case study delves into our partnership’s story, illuminating innovative strategies and enduring impact as we celebrate more than a decade of success together.

Partnership Origins

Marsh McLennan first partnered with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, as a corporate partner on the Foundation’s Mentoring Women in Business programme, in 2012.

Primarily, Marsh McLennan was looking for a partnership with a nonprofit organisation that aligned to its social impact focus on giving back through skills-based mentoring. As a people business, Marsh McLennan’s offering is the brainpower, knowledge and expertise of its colleagues, so leveraging this through mentoring along with women’s empowerment were key priorities.

A strong draw for Marsh McLennan – a large company with just under 60,000 colleagues at that time and present in nearly 140 countries – was that, due to the programme’s global nature, the Foundation was able to mirror its geographies and offer opportunities for colleagues everywhere.

In those days the Foundation was relatively small in terms of its reach, but had big ambitions, and so the two organisations agreed to start with a small pilot of the programme. For this, a few mentors were recruited from Marsh McLennan’s US and UK offices, which was then expanded to Mexico. From there, thanks to the pilot’s success, the delivery only grew, with the opportunity to mentor extended out to every office worldwide.

The initial plan had been for women colleagues to mentor women entrepreneurs, but this quickly changed when the benefits of mentoring for all colleagues became clear. Mentoring has since remained one of their social impact focus areas, which has supported the maintenance of the partnership. The company currently has three global nonprofit partners, one of which is the Foundation.

Programme delivery

The programme has been delivered consistently with Marsh McLennan as partners since 2012. Each year, Marsh McLennan colleagues join the programme to serve as dedicated professional mentors to women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries, donating their time and expertise for a 12 month period. Marsh McLennan funds their participation and that of their mentees.

At the time of writing, over 500 Marsh McLennan colleagues have taken part as mentors and nearly 600 women entrepreneurs have been supported as their mentees.

Marsh McLennan mentors typically come from diverse sectors of the company and bring to the a wealth of expertise in areas such as business planning and growth, finance, marketing and communications, operations, partnership development and strategy. They are of all genders and each mentor has at least seven years of professional experience.

This opportunity supported my listening skills, it gave me awareness of cultural differences and how they can improve perspective.

Laura Economos, Marsh McLennan mentor

Women mentored by Marsh McLennan colleagues live in a wide number of countries, the most common being Nigeria (33% of mentees), India (13%), South Africa (8%), Turkey (5%) and Kenya (5%). 81% live in urban areas, 15% in peri-urban and 4% in rural.

These women’s businesses are typically fairly early-stage, with 62% being within one and five years old at the time of joining the programme. 15% have a business that’s under a year old, and 15% are preparing to launch their business – working with their mentor to do so.

The top five industries represented amongst mentees’ businesses are food and drink (13%), consulting (10%), arts and crafts (8%), education and training (8%), and fashion design (7%).

Marsh McLennan mentors are carefully matched by the Foundation with their ideal mentee to ensure the strongest relationships and outcomes. They receive training and support to step into their roles as mentors – as do mentees. Mentors and mentees meet for around two hours a month through the Foundation’s purpose-built online mentoring platform for a one-year period. The relationships are structured over four phases and are supplemented by webinars, resources and support from the Foundation’s team.

The training was very professional, and a manageable commitment of time. It was inspiring and very well constructed. It helped set expectations, supported meeting my mentee for the first time, and helped with goal setting. It was really good to have that structure in place.

Zara Jeffery, interim Global Head of Social Impact, Marsh McLennan, and alumna mentor

The programme delivery has been overall robust, successful and smooth. Initially, there were some challenges with participants not being able to use the technology, but Marsh McLennan and the Foundation worked together to find a solution. The online platform used for the mentoring programme has been improved to enhance usability. Occasionally, there have been issues with technology due to intermittent electricity or internet access for mentees, but the flexible nature of the programme has helped to address these challenges.

Since 2021, Marsh McLennan mentors have seen these fantastic results...

100% were satisfied with the level of support that they received

100% would recommend the programme to colleagues

Benefits to mentees

Since 2021, 100% of Marsh McLennan mentees have applied skills they’ve learned from the programme to their businesses. These skills relate to accessing new markets (acquired by 71% of mentees), business development (45%), marketing (45%), business administration (42%), and business strategy and planning (30%). Over half of mentees also increased their self-confidence.

But it is mentees’ achievements that really highlight the immense value the programme holds: 65% implemented a new business plan or strategy through the programme, 52% created new or different products or services, 48% implemented a communications or marketing strategy, 26% entered new markets, and 16% actually launched their businesses with their mentor’s support. Crucially, 26% of Marsh McLennan ’s mentees cite the programme supported them to keep their business from going under.

At Kaeme, we believe in supporting the local community and creating impact. I gained new leadership insights, expanded my network and I’m in the process of entering new markets all because of the mentoring programme.

Freda Obeng-Ampofo, alumna mentee, Ghana

All of this ladders up to business success for the mentee, supporting her to achieve her own economic objectives, but also creates a fantastic ripple effect of positive impact on those around her: her staff, family and community. One of Marsh McLennan’s colleagues’ mentees, Sofía Cruz, runs a company in Mexico called Mexikatekatl that supports artisans to supply their products to the tourist industry. Sofía saw huge growth through her year-long mentorship: when she started the programme she had been running her business for a year and was selling products to ten companies; after, she was working with over 100 local artisans and selling to 20 companies. As a result, her revenue doubled and she left the programme on track to double it again in her third year of operation.

With women entrepreneurs forming the backbone of many low and middle income countries’ economies, mentee’s success ultimately contributes to the economic prosperity of their countries, as well as greater visibility of women leaders and enhanced gender equality in societies.

Sofia Cruz del Río Castellanos, a woman entrepreneur from Mexico works with hand beaded products. In the forefront are glass jars with intricately beaded covers. She stands in the background wearing a white t-shirt and working with a fabric that has purple, yellow and blue ribbons on it. In the background are shelves of woven baskets.
Sofía Cruz, Owner of Mexikatekatl and alumna mentee, Mexico

Benefits to mentors

Through serving as mentors, Marsh McLennan colleagues gain in leadership and communication skills and confidence. They grow awareness of different cultures, markets and ways of doing business, and their job satisfaction increases. All of this feeds back into and enhances their work at the company.

Of Marsh McLennan mentors from 2021 onwards...

100% gained new skills through the programme

90% gained knowledge of a new culture or increased their cultural awareness

83% improved their listening skills

66% learned about doing business in a new sector or market

The programme is very enjoyable and creates a sense of pride, fulfilment and job satisfaction. Mentors feel a strong sense they are not only supporting one individual woman entrepreneur but also enabling benefits for others around her, thereby contributing to a fantastic global impact.

Colleagues who've taken part in the programme have highly valued their experience. We've never really had any negative feedback, the mentors always gain in professional and personal skills.

Zara Jeffery, interim Global Head of Social Impact, Marsh McLennan, and alumna mentor

Furthermore, the programme enables men to participate in supporting women as allies, which Marsh McLennan strongly values, and can even bring benefits to mentors’ personal lives. One male Marsh McLennan colleague was matched with a woman who owned a wedding dress design company. At first he was confused and a little put off, feeling he had nothing to offer as he didn’t know anything about her particular industry. However, the experience not only challenged his own assumptions, having found himself with a huge amount to offer his mentee, but on a personal level he gained a different perspective on his own teenage daughters, which supported him to build stronger connections with them. His daughters in turn gained a whole new view of their father because of his mentorship.

The Mentoring programme reinforced my organisational skills, communication skills, trust building, and relationship management skills that are all so important whatever you do. It’s all cumulative and transferrable to business interactions, mentoring someone in your team, and so on.

Stephen, Marsh McLennan mentor

These fantastic outcomes for mentors means Marsh McLennan is always over-subscribed when mentor recruitment comes around. Some colleagues find the experience so rewarding they take part multiple times, such as Eugene Gay, Head of Tax, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, who has served as a mentor four times!

Marsh McLennan colleagues’ loyalty to their employer is boosted through having participated in this programme. When they realise the dedication and commitment it entails from mentors, they also recognise the commitment it represents by the company to women and communities across the world.

I want to work for a company with a sense of mission and purpose, so the fact that Marsh McLennan does things like this is important to me.

Beth, Marsh McLennan mentor

Supporting Marsh McLennan’s strategic aims

In addition to the positive impact for mentors, and the company as a result, our partnership supports several of Marsh McLennan’s strategic aims:

  • In 2022, Marsh McLennan merged its diversity and social impact departments to one centre of excellence. The company cites the partnership with the Foundation as supporting the articulation of the connections between diversity and social impact.
  • Marsh McLennan focuses on six UN Sustainable Development Goals, this partnership contributes directly to three of these: SDG5 – gender equality, SDG8 – decent work and economic growth, and SDG17 – partnerships for goals.
  • The programme strongly aligns into Marsh McLennan’s social impact focus of mentoring and due to its global reach is inclusive of all colleagues.
  • ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) is fundamental to Marsh McLennan’s identity with its colleagues, clients and the communities it impacts. Gender parity within the company is of high importance, and the partnership both mirrors that but also demonstrates externally Marsh McLennan’s commitment to supporting women. This is articulated through their annual ESG report.

Zara’s experiences as a mentor

Zara Jeffery, interim Global Head of Social Impact at Marsh McLennan had worked on the partnership to help manage and recruit colleague mentors for some years. She had long wanted to become a mentor herself, but thought she didn’t have the capacity. Eventually, when another colleague took over the day to day management of the partnership, she decided it was time for her to have the experience too.

It was exciting and daunting all at the same time. You think, ‘what do I really have to offer a woman entrepreneur?’ and ‘I don't really have any experience’ - but of course you do.

What stuck out to Zara was that she didn’t have to be an expert in the field her mentee worked in, or have entrepreneurial experience, or be a seasoned mentor.

I didn't have to give my mentee advice about how to grow her business. It was more about listening, being a sounding board, and asking her questions to encourage her to think about where she wanted to go.

As a busy professional, some weeks Zara used to think she didn’t have time for her mentorship. But then, when she actually had her monthly conversations with her mentee, Zara found, as many mentors do, that mentoring provided a refreshing change in her working week and reminded her there’s a whole world out there.

Zara’s mentee, who was based in Brazil, ran a company building and marketing sustainable, wooden children’s play equipment. She had two other jobs in addition to running her business, and also had two young children to look after – a common situation for many women who take part as mentees. There were times when she was feeling demotivated and exhausted, but Zara was able to support and encourage her through these which then enabled her to make progress.

Being a mentor helped Zara gain in confidence and realise what experience and knowledge she had, as well helping build her listening skills and bring new perspectives to her own work and commitments. She felt very proud and it was a privilege to say she was taking part in the mentoring scheme. Zara also loved to talk to colleagues and friends about her mentorship.

In the big global picture of gender equality and supporting women entrepreneurs, it’s easy to think mentoring one person is a drop in the ocean, but it's all helping to collectively push the agenda forward in the right direction.

A Ghanaian woman entrepreneur stands between two other Ghanaian women. They are all wearing black shirts with the Kaeme logo.
Freda Obeng-Ampofo, Founder of Kaeme and alumna mentee, Ghana

Looking to the future

In addition to the many strong outcomes we have achieved together, Marsh McLennan cite the extensive support they receive from the Foundation as one of the key things that keeps them returning year-on-year. This includes the materials, case studies and imagery to showcase the partnership impact and help recruit mentors internally, as well as the dedicated support colleague mentors throughout the programme.

We've been consistently impressed over the years with the level of support you give and the depth of how the Foundation runs the programme: how you select and match the mentors and mentees for maximum benefits, how you find the mentees - that's a phenomenally huge undertaking.

As a year-long programme, as opposed to a one-off session, it’s a deep undertaking which produces much stronger and more meaningful results for both mentees and mentors. With 10 years of partnership and impact now under the belt, and more to come, it demonstrates Marsh McLennan’s dedication to gender equality and to women entrepreneurs, as well as to offer colleagues a unique and meaningful volunteer opportunity – it’s also testimony to the professionalism and positivity the Foundation brings as a partner.

This long-term, impact-driven thinking is reflected in that Marsh McLennan and the Foundation have just renewed their partnership for three more years, with Marsh McLennan also increasing the number of mentors the company funds annually from 45 to 60 to both increase impact, and meet demand from eager colleagues. Together we look forward to supporting another 180 women and their businesses across the world.

Partner with us

Our global Mentoring Women in Business programme supports gender equality and inclusive economic growth by pairing corporate professionals with women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries. We make it easy for corporations, no matter where they are in the world, to propel women-owned businesses and contribute to economic prosperity in the entrepreneur’s community.