'Walk-and-talk' mentoring sessions start for women in Canberra
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'Walk-and-talk' mentoring sessions start for women in Canberra

They are the perfect antidote to the stale, after-work, find-your-name-badge-and-grab-a-cold-spring-roll events that corporate types seem to think are inspiring.

Instead, before the day gets started, women walk around Lake Burley Griffin in the morning alongside a mentor, who could be anyone from Austrade chief executive Dr Stephanie Fahey to writer Dr Anne Summers to the Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann. And it's here they can walk the walk and talk the talk.

Stepping out at the first Mentor Walks in Canberra was mentor Michelle Melbourne from  Intelledox (right) with Claire Corby from Capital Buyers Agency.

Stepping out at the first Mentor Walks in Canberra was mentor Michelle Melbourne from Intelledox (right) with Claire Corby from Capital Buyers Agency.Credit:Karleen Minney

Mentor Walks was launched in Canberra on Wednesday in partnership with the Australian National University.

Cofounder Bobbi Mahlab said women looking for inspiration could walk with their mentor to "workshop ideas, gain insight and discuss challenges with some of Australia’s most successful female leaders".

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“These conversations are an important part of helping women take the next step in their career and ultimately developing the next generation of female leaders,” she said.

Mentees are matched with a mentor and fellow mentees to keep the walks "casual, purposeful and personal".

Mentees Nipuni Wijweickrema, Suzanne Rochester and Claire Corby with their mentor Michelle Melbourne at the launch of Mentor Walks on Wednesday.

Mentees Nipuni Wijweickrema, Suzanne Rochester and Claire Corby with their mentor Michelle Melbourne at the launch of Mentor Walks on Wednesday.Credit:Karleen Minney

Sessions will be held every second month around Lake Burley Griffin from 7.15am to 8.30am.

Claire Corby, owner of local business Capital Buyers Agency, found out about the walks on social media and applied to take part as a mentee.

"I find I do my best thinking when I'm walking. It's something about that natural movement, it gives you a different perspective," she said.

The 38-year-old mother-of-two said it was a more relaxed way to mine for information. She was teamed with mentor Michelle Melbourne, founder and executive director of Intelledox, a global software company based in Canberra.

"It was just like talking with your girlfriends," Claire said. "You talk about what's going on but it was good because you're paired up with someone who is at the next level."

While Claire's business is about helping people buy real estate in Canberra, she was looking to Michelle for advice about how to grow her company.

"It can be hard to find other people who have walked that path before," she said.

"But having Michelle as a sounding board, and the fact she could see what was coming up and ask really intelligent questions that made be think about 'where to next?' ... was really worthwhile."

It was fantastic to be on the footpaths of our beautiful city to unlock and discover people's potential.

Mentor Walks mentor Michelle Melbourne

Michelle, meanwhile, said she was asked by the ANU to be part of Mentor Walks and had no hesitation because she felt the university was supportive of women in leadership roles.

"It was a wonderful, eclectic mix of women from all walks of life, all scales of business, from start-ups to massively established multinational companies," she said.

"It was fantastic to be on the footpaths of our beautiful city to unlock and discover people's potential. Forty-five minutes, it just disappeared in a heartbeat.

"I had the great privilege of walking with three women who are experiencing a range of challenges and opportunities in their careers and, honestly, I wasn't so much the mentor as much as the facilitator of a conversation between the four of us who were walking together."

Michelle said her greatest advice was for women to "trust their instinct and back themselves".

"That means making decisions. I often say you've got to make a thousand little decisions before there's a big impact on your business," she said.

The next Mentor Walks sessions will be held in Canberra on May 1, July 3, September 4 and November 6. To apply to be a mentee go to mentorwalks.com.au

Megan Doherty is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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