03Women Business Leaders’ Mentoring Programme

Santander supporting women and entrepreneurship

Santander is a signatory member to the UK government Investing in Women Code, which was launched in 2019 and founded from the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship.

The code is a commitment is to support the advancement of female entrepreneurship in the UK by improving access to tools, resources and finance from the financial services sector.

As part of our committment, we're very proud to deliver the Women Business Leaders' Mentoring Programme powered by Women Ahead.

About the programme

The programme is a mentoring scheme for the next generation of fast-growth female entrepreneurs.

We match women business leaders from across the UK with carefully selected mentors from a variety of industries and backgrounds, to support their mentees as they consider their next stage of business and professional growth.

To help our mentees think differently and innovatively, we match them with someone from a different sector, and both male and female mentors are involved.

The programme will run from March to November 2020.

What we look for in a mentee

You don't need to be a Santander customer to apply, but you must be the female owner or majority shareholder of a business with an annual turnover up to £6.5m. 

You'll need to:

  • Be keen to develop and be prepared to take responsibility for progressing your business.
  • Be capable of scaling up your business and boosting local employment
  • Be ready to be mentored, with a willingness to receive feedback and advice.
  • Have an awareness of your own strengths and limitations.
What we look for in a mentor

To be a mentor you don't need to be a Santander customer and can be any gender. You'll need to run, or own your own business (or have done so in the past) or be a business leader with corporate experience.

We're looking for mentors who want to make a difference and help someone work through a challenge. You'll need to:

  • Understand how entrepreneurial organisations work and be happy to share perspectives based on experiences
  • Act as a positive role model
  • Be committed, reliable and maintain confidentiality
  • Have great listening skills and be easy to talk to

Register your interest

The 2020 programme is now closed for applications. However, if you’re interested in taking part in a future programme please register your interest.

Mentees and mentors have regular contact with each other, and from the outset, the mentoring pairing jointly identify business objectives and the support required.

Using the materials and framework provided by Santander and Women Ahead, they work together to establish areas of development to enable and foster business growth and professional development over the nine month programme.


Louise Robinson

Head of Breakthrough, Santander

Alongside the many activities that Santander Breakthrough undertakes to support all SME business owners, we’ve always ensured that we build in activity that offers a specific level of support to Women Business Leaders.

The strongest determinant for success for a female entrepreneur is about being able to take considered risks, to be resilient and to learn quickly when things go wrong. Working through issues, discussing opportunities, developing links and a support network with other entrepreneurs can be hugely valuable, which is why we’re launching our Breakthrough Women Business Leaders’ Mentoring programme.

Liz Dimmock

Founder and CEO, Women Ahead

Women Ahead is delighted to be partnering with Santander to deliver this programme. As an entrepreneur myself, I understand just how exciting, yet also challenging it can be. It’s a massive yet rewarding step and one I am grateful to have made and never regretted.

I’ve personally benefitted from mentoring at all stages; from start up to now in year six – and it was in fact a mentor that supported and challenged me to make this very step –to found Women Ahead, my social impact organisation six years ago. Mentoring enabled me to make this leap, embrace the (many!) challenges, and to always process and learn from the setbacks and acknowledge successes along the way.

Did you know?

Effective mentoring is not only turning the gender dial, but is paving the way for a more inclusive, connected and diverse workforce and society (Women Ahead/Deloitte Research 2017)

Research conducted by BITC reported that, only 4% of women are engaged in entrepreneurial activity compared to 9% of men, and if women set up businesses at the same rate as men there be an extra 150,000 start-ups in the UK each year.

The Rose Review found that female-led businesses receive less funding than those headed by men at every stage of their journey, launching with 53% less capital on average than men. Family care responsibilities also limit the ability of female entrepreneurs, with women twice as likely as men to mention family responsibilities as a barrier to starting a business.

As well as founding fewer businesses, women are also less than half as likely to scale up their business to £1million turnover than men, despite the fact that women are as successful as men in sustaining a business once established.

Up to £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as UK men. (The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship 2019).

Women also face cultural barriers, such as having a higher risk aversion and being less likely to believe they possess entrepreneurial skills

What is Women Ahead?

Women Ahead is a social impact organisation working with big organisations to increase all spheres of diversity and inclusion. They believe that diversity of thought, experience and teams lead to better business performance.

That's why, through mentoring, storytelling and research they're working to improve workplace diversity and inclusion. Women Ahead's sister company Moving Ahead runs the world's largest cross-company mentoring scheme on behalf of the 30% Club which campaigns for greater female representation on company boards. This award-winning scheme currently supports 1,972 mentors and mentees from over 100 organisations.