3 Steps to Creating a Women’s Mentorship Program

By Hasti Hejazi, Education Director, AIA Contract Documents

March 1, 2023

Still a male-dominated industry, women continue to face challenges working within all sectors of construction. Obstacles to advancement and gender bias continue to be reported by women workers at alarming rates.

Not surprisingly, recent research continues to show women are vastly underrepresented within construction companies, which may lead to feelings of isolation in the workplace, struggles for acceptance, and a lack of access to mentorship. In addition, an increase in remote flexibility in some construction roles may leave women feeling like they’re going at it alone.  It’s now more important than ever for seasoned and experienced leaders to pave the way for women entering the field.

Creating a formal mentorship program at your company is a great way to connect women so that they can support each other and build relationships. This can be done with limited resources and budget as long as you have genuine backing from leadership, mentors who are willing to give their time and mentees who are willing to participate in the program.

Need help getting leadership on board? Make the business case and point to research such as the Delivering growth through diversity in the workplace report created by McKinsey & Company, which reinforces the link between diversity and a company’s financial profitability.

Studies show that a diverse workplace contributes significantly to the success of a business.  Harnessing diverse skillsets, knowledge and experience in your workforce can lead to innovation and creativity that can make your business thrive. Not to mention, an inclusive and supportive company culture leads to happier and more engaged employees, which can lead to increased productivity and work satisfaction, as well as less employee turnover.

Assuming that you have the support from leadership to start a women’s mentorship program, what’s the first step?  Read on for ideas on how you can create your own mentorship program.

Step 1: Create a Women’s Leadership Group

Ask a handful of women in your company to create, implement and evaluate a mentorship program for staff.  Activities may include:

  • Surveying staff to ascertain their interest in participation in the program.
  • Eliciting feedback from participants.
  • Pairing mentors with mentees.
  • Establishing programmatic guidelines and objectives.
  • Drafting a programmatic mission statement.
  • Setting a schedule for mentors and mentees to meet. Choose a schedule that works for your staff, such as meeting once a week, month or quarter.
  • Providing mentorship resources and guides to facilitate discussions, relationships and setting goals.
  • Evaluating the impact of the program.

Designate a team leader who will be accountable for communicating goals, organizing work and reporting progress to leadership.

Step 2: Survey Staff Throughout the Year

Mentorship programs are voluntary in nature and will have better rates of success if staff feel engaged from the conception of the program.  Survey staff to ascertain how many are interested in participating, in what capacity they wish to participate, how much time they are willing to commit, and what resources they need to be successful.  Provide a safe space for staff to provide feedback on their progress and satisfaction with the program. The program’s leadership group should welcome feedback from participants and modify the program’s guidelines based on survey results when possible.

Step 3: Anticipate and Overcome Challenges

You may experience challenges or roadblocks at first. For example, if your company is small and you can’t garner enough interest, consider partnering with similar companies in the industry.  Or you may consider creating a group mentoring model where participants can meet regularly as a small group to share their challenges and goals.

If you don’t have enough mentors who are women, consider recruiting leaders from partner companies or asking male counterparts to participate. Having a CEO or Chief of Staff (regardless of gender) devote time to acting as a mentor speaks volumes about organizational commitment to the excellence and advancement of women.


Lastly, don’t forget to communicate and celebrate your progress and achievements with all of your staff. When a company implements a mentorship program, it impacts everyone involved and creates a company culture that seeks to be inclusive, diverse and level the playing field.  It not only benefits program participants, but creates a space for staff to feel valued, heard and connected.  A big achievement indeed!

Want to learn more about how you can create a program in your company that supports women? Register for the fifth installment of Breaking Barriers: Women in Construction Webinar Series where Shannon McElveen, Chief of Staff of AIA Contract Documents, discusses the creation of the Women Leaders Under Construction program, which was created to provide opportunities for professional development, networking and mentorship for women on our staff. Register Today>

AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.