SurveyMonkey and LeanIn.org released last week survey results that disturbingly found 60% of men are uncomfortable participating in mentoring women. For those 60% who acknowledged this, I say thank you. Because now that we know you feel this way, we can address the issue. For women to succeed and reach their full professional potential we need male mentors, sponsors, and champions. Not because male mentors are better than female mentors, but because men typically hold the majority of positions that reflect influence, power, and stronger strategic alliances. Women also tend to lack a diverse network compounding the issue even further.
So how do we raise the comfort level for men mentors and level the playing field for the advancement of women when it comes to mentoring? We must work together to make the experience comfortable and rewarding for both the mentor and the mentee. There is a good article by Wendy Murphy, Advice for Men who are Nervous About Mentoring Women, that offers several useful suggestions. And if you want a more in-depth read, try Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women.
What We Have Learned
For years I watched how the inequality of mentoring opportunities among men and women hinder women’s careers. This disparity motivated me to design mentoring programs that truly address the chasm that exists for women to be mentored by men (and also mentored by women). Interestingly, we found that giving women leaders the opportunities to mentor junior men offered these mentees experiences that allowed them to reach a level of comfortability in mentoring a female when they themselves became a mentor. Additionally, as a by-product, we have seen the breakdown of unconscious bias occur naturally insides these relationships and often with better results than a one-day unconscious bias training workshop.
Slaying the elephant early helps too. By that I mean offering an opportunity early in the mentoring process to bring mentors together in an organization to discuss the nuances of men mentoring women, sharing best practices and providing a structure of mentoring that is basically non-gender specific and allows for attitudinal change.
Having this conversation about men mentoring women is important and crucial to the future of work. The reward for effective mentoring provides a company with a pipeline of well-prepared women who can advance in their careers and add to the company’s competitiveness.
Click here below download our Mentoring 101 video guide to learn the elements of a successful mentoring relationship.