Mobile mentoring program helping to inspire women on the move

Regular walkers will know full well the value of a good walking companion, but imagine if that companion also happens to be a successful Australian woman offering her advice over that hike? Since the Mentor Walks initiative began in 2016, more than 1250 aspiring Australian women have been paired up with senior female leaders to walk and talk during a mentoring session.

Bobbi Mahlab, Co-founder, Mentor Walks (left), pictured with program co-founder Adina Jacobs.
Bobbi Mahlab, Co-founder, Mentor Walks (left), pictured with program co-founder Adina Jacobs.

Bobbi Mahlab, who co-founded the Australian program, says she and Adina Jacobs first saw the concept in action in China.

“We looked at each other and said: ‘This is such a simple, effective, impactful idea – let’s do it.’ Two months later we launched in Sydney,” she says.

Fast forward three years and the co-founders are making strong headway on their goal to take Mentor Walks to every city and region in Australia. Monthly events already run in Sydney and Melbourne, while Canberra, Brisbane and Wollongong have bimonthly walks.


Support from the Victorian Government has helped kick start the program and mentees pay a $25 “commitment fee” to ensure people turn up on the day. For mentees like Lucy Hammill, a senior events manager for Property Exchange Australia Limited, turning up has proven to be worthwhile.

“My mentee experience so far has been incredibly valuable. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to walk with some of Australia’s most inspiring female leaders within the business community,” she says. “The program has helped me with advice about creating leadership opportunities, managing upwards, facilitating tough conversations, providing peer-to-peer feedback, and tips on having a seat at the table.”

It’s also helped her on a more personal note at work. “I’ve gained the confidence to back my decision making and trust my gut, even when it can involve risk-taking and some confronting conversations,” Hammill says.

RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson is one of the mentors in the Mentor Walks program.
RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson is one of the mentors in the Mentor Walks program.Credit:Karleen Minney

Mentees, who are matched in groups of up to three, could find themselves being supported on a walk by the brainpower and experience of mentors like founder of RedBalloon, Naomi Simson; writer Dr Anne Summers; Co-founder and CEO of Adore Beauty, Kate Morris; or one of dozens of senior executives, CEOs or entrepreneurs who have volunteered their time for the program.

Mahlab says mentees are asked to attend with a question or challenge in mind and are often happy that mentors are not only experienced, but separate from their own workplace.

“We find people often don’t feel comfortable asking for advice [within their own organisation] if it’s a sensitive issue,” she says.

A mentor herself, Mahlab says the walks also provide benefits for those on the “giving” end of the process.

“As they walk and talk everyone helps each other. People realise that whether they are three years in or fifty years in they have something to contribute. Mentors will tell you they get as much out of it as they give,” she says.

There are some practical advantages for mentors too.

“Our mentors are such busy people; they are constantly asked to mentor people. They would like to say yes to everyone but they can’t, so this allows them to refer people to the program where they know they’ll find someone who can help,” Mahlab says.

As for women who have signed up for a future walk and are pondering what to ask, Mahlab says to bear one thing in mind when forming that all-important question.

“Sometimes women think their issues aren’t big enough to talk about. My thought on that is this: If it’s an issue for you, it’s worth talking about,” she says.

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