Norwegian media industry’s Mentor Programme supports women

By Trine Ohrberg

Norwegian Media Businesses' Association

Oslo, Norway


A unified Norwegian media industry has put gender balance and diversity on the agenda — and committed to changing the culture of media companies in a unique collaboration benefiting women across organisations and competitors.

The Mentor Programme identifies leaders of the future, and media companies and media groups consciously use the programme to develop new talents and change the culture of their organisations.

The programme founders are the Norwegian Media Businesses' Association (NMBA) and the Media Network, a forum for media women in leadership.

Changing the culture

In 2017, the Norwegian media industry was severely affected by the #MeToo wave, with unacceptable culture revealed in several media companies. We teamed up with the Norwegian Journalist Organisation and The Association of Norwegian Editors, and in November 2017 conducted a sexual harassment survey in the industry.

Survey responses conveyed that:

  • Companies with a good gender balance were better equipped to eliminate harassment problems.
  • Gender balance in the management group would be good for the working environment.
After discovering a gender imbalance in media companies, the Norwegian media industry launched a mentorship programme.
After discovering a gender imbalance in media companies, the Norwegian media industry launched a mentorship programme.

In March 2018, for the first time, we examined the gender balance in Norwegian media companies. The survey results showed women often drop out before they reach the leadership groups, leaving mostly men leading the companies. Therefore, it was time to work to diversify the management of our media houses to add more female leaders.

So, in the summer of 2018, together with the Media Network, we decided to establish a mentoring programme. We interviewed the country’s corporate leaders and defined their need and willingness to contribute to such a programme. Media group executives unanimously agreed that the mentoring programme would be a useful tool to diversify management. All media groups and companies contributed both financially and by providing mentors.

3 goals for the programme

We set three clear goals for what we wanted to achieve with this programme:

  1. At the individual level of the participant: The programme will help to strengthen leadership and career opportunities in the media industry.
  2. At the industry level: The programme will raise awareness of diversity work and talent development in the Norwegian media industry. The media companies must set specific goals for this work in their own group and organisation.
  3. At the community level: The programme will make the Norwegian media industry more diverse to increase the power of innovation and strengthen the social mission. While examining other industries critically about how they work with gender balance and gender equality, we must step up and show that we, too, are working with these issues and taking this seriously.

How it works

The Mentor Programme consists of five sessions throughout one year. In addition, the mentor pairs meet regularly, at least once a month. They have the opportunity to contact our professional partner and specialist AFF, Norway's largest leadership and organisational development consultancy, for advice if needed.

The programme consists of 16 participants per year. We have a three-year perspective for the programme, and we will have three groups with mentees and mentors. By the end of the period, about 100 media leaders will have been part of the programme.

Sixteen participants are selected each year to participate in the programme.
Sixteen participants are selected each year to participate in the programme.

Mentors do not receive fees, but do receive professional follow-up from the academic partner and must prioritise the meetings.

The women who are invited to join the programme, the mentees, have a managerial job, with ambitions for professional development and more responsibility in their organisation. Managers with a multi-cultural background are especially encouraged to apply.

AFF is academically responsible for the mentoring programme. AFF offers some of the most renowned open enrollment programmes in the Nordic countries in cooperation with NHH, Norwegian School of Economics. AFF is currently rated among the top 50 in the Financial Times annual ranking.

In three weeks, we received more than 60 applications from women who wanted to participate in the programme. We conducted in-depth interviews with 25 candidates and finally selected 16 participants.

Making a difference

The Mentor Programme has been very successful, and we are already seeing results of the work in recruitment processes and in the media houses.

  • During the year, 10 of the 16 participants in the mentoring programme received new and larger management assignments in their company or group. 
  • The evaluation shows that 92% of participants have mentor meetings every month, with additional calls and messages between visits. All mentors say they have benefited from the programme, with 90% stating they are now more conscious of diversity and gender balance. All the mentees also report a greater awareness of diversity and how it applies to their careers. Participants say the programme has helped them clarify their current roles as well as their larger career goals.
  • Norway’s largest commercial TV channel, TV2, made a commitment at the start of the programme that all new external hires in 2019 should be women.
  • We repeated the gender balance survey in 2019. The results showed a clear change in the gender balance from 2018, especially in editorial companies, where the proportion of women in management groups increased by 10 percentage points. In 2019, women make up almost half of the editorial management groups. The proportion of newly hired women has increased from 39% to 60%. For editorial firms, seven out of 10 new hires were women. These are changes that happened in one year. What we decide and focus on, we achieve!
  • We received more than 80 applications for the second round of the mentoring programme and expanded to 18 mentees starting in January.

This programme can easily be adopted in other countries. Contact us to learn more.

About Trine Ohrberg

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