Santander launches expanded women in business mentoring scheme for SME leaders


The Breakthrough Women Business Leaders Mentoring Programme is Santander’s most ambitious programme focusing on women in SMEs and will match 90 mentees with 90 mentors. 

Santander UK is launching its most ambitious Women Business Leaders’ Mentoring Programme to date, as part of its Breakthrough programme.  The scheme will specifically focus on mentoring women in SMEs to help their business grow and will be powered by the social enterprise, Women Ahead.

The programme will incorporate 180 participants: 90 mentors and 90 mentees across the UK. Mentees will be the key decision makers in the company, whether that be the founder, owner, or Managing Director. The mentors must have proven leadership qualities and could be an owner of their own business or a senior leader within a large organisation. The mentors and mentees must have contact at least once a month and will be matched as geographically close to each other as possible, so they can meet face-to-face regularly.

SMEs make up 99% of private sector businesses so helping them to scale up and reach their potential will have a direct positive impact to the UK economy. The Women and Work Commission also found that unleashing women’s full potential could be worth £23bn a year to the Exchequer, but only four per cent of women are engaged in entrepreneurial activity, compared to 9% of men.

Louise Robinson, Head of Breakthrough, Santander said: “Santander is a strong supporter of women business leaders and has been offering support and networking events via its Breakthrough programme since 2011.

“We believe that with the right level of support, we can help businesses grow. Our ambition is to create a Women Business Leaders’ network across the country which not only benefits the individuals themselves, but also their businesses, the local economy and ultimately the broader UK economy.”

Mentors and mentees will be given training to understand the programme’s purpose, vision, their role and any boundaries. They will also be equipped with the skills to have effective conversations. The training will be provided via highly effective digital training videos and learning materials. 

Prospective mentors and mentees can apply online and the deadline for applications is 5 October. The programme itself will start on 7 November once the mentors and mentees have been matched, and will run through to July 2019.

To be eligible for this programme the mentee must be the owner or majority shareholder of a business, with an annual turnover of between £50,000 and £6.5m. They must have been trading for at least one year and be capable of scaling up the business and boosting local employment.

Liz Dimmock, Founder and CEO, Women Ahead said: “Women Ahead is delighted to be partnering with Santander Breakthrough to deliver their mentoring programme. As an entrepreneur myself, I understand just how daunting and overwhelming it can sometimes feel to go it alone.  It’s a massive but rewarding step and one I’ve never regretted.  Mentoring has enabled me to make this leap to set up the organisation I love, to embrace the (many!) challenges along the way and to always process and learn from the setbacks and success. 

For more information or to apply online, please visit