Stimulating women to be more active in their career


At Umicore, we believe in equal opportunities, fairness and diversity.

What did you want to achieve?

As part of the different initiatives we take to foster an inclusive culture, the coaching circles was launched back in 2016. We wanted to create an initiative to stimulate women to be more active in their career. ‘Coaching Circles’ aims to bring female leadership to the next level by providing a combination of coaching, training, mentoring and networking. We started a pilot in 2016 in Belgium. It was a very enriching experience for both participants and mentors. Following the very positive feedback, we integrated Coaching Circles into Umicore’s learning and development offering and gradually roll out similar initiatives globally inspired by this successful case.

What did you do?

The Coaching Circles programme consists of 5 four-hour group sessions around five topics over five months, mediated by a female professional trainer: ‘network & connection’, ‘communication & visibility’, ‘life balance & resilience’, ‘effective leadership’ and ‘personal growth’. Individual coaching sessions at the start and end complements the programme with a personal flavour.

The sessions are very interactive, with 20 participants and five internal mentors. Breakout moments allow discussion on how to apply the topic of the session in the specific Umicore setting, creating a link between theory and practice.

As mentors, senior female managers want to create an open atmosphere, being authentic to encourage sharing. This also means showing vulnerability since some topics – such as how to overcome self-limiting beliefs – are not easy to share. Their personal learnings and insights are of great value to younger female colleagues.

Coaching Circles creates a network that lasts. In-between sessions and after the programme, people continue reaching out to one another.

We now organise the program annually as part of our standard training curriculum.

What are the results so far?

Based on feedback, Coaching Circles is meeting expectations in terms of how women are seeking and reacting to opportunities, reflecting on their careers and networking. We are seeing women ‘Act, Advertise and Ask’ rather than remaining passive and avoiding self-promotion. They are surmounting ‘self-limiting beliefs’, considering the different ‘language’ between men and women and also creating awareness and focused initiatives.

Indirectly, Coaching Circles has stimulated the career of participants within Umicore and now guides other diversity initiatives within the company.

What have you learned?

We learned that the mix of training, mentorship and networking is extremely powerful. Next to this, programme support from senior management, it has helped make this programme a success.