The influence an ally or mentor that doesn’t look like you can have has grossly been underestimated.
One of the biggest challenges women face in many male-dominated industries is the unconscious gender bias that comes with being a minority in their field. Most women can identify the positive influence that having an ally, peer or mentor has on helping to overcome this challenge.
Access leverages individual growth
It’s important not to underestimate the value of these kinds of positive relationships with senior staff members.
Traditionally mentoring has typically been hierarchical in nature – the older and wiser mentor guiding the younger mentee. While there are obvious learnings to be gained from our elders, if we limit ourselves to thinking this is the only type of mentor, we ultimately limit our opportunities to learn and we indirectly exclude some people from being able to participate. There are just so many ways to participate in mentoring.
So what can we do when there aren’t many people that look like ourselves further up the ladder?
Mentor someone that doesn’t look like you
These relationships are particularly important for those who make up a minority in a business or industry. In many industries that we at Mentorloop come across, the largest disparity is gender disparity. This makes mentoring women especially important, in order to see them rise up.
This was the impetus for Xero to pilot their first mentoring program, to women.
Particularly in the tech industry, mentoring is incredibly important. With innovation comes high performance, and having someone in your court to advise and provide guidance makes an enormous difference.
To mark the occasion, they launched their program on International Women’s Day 2018 and after only three months they reached over one hundred mentors and mentees.
Diversity and inclusion is a team sport
No one leader, one employee or one champion of change can morph an entire company culture – it requires the effort and support from all.
Since their launch, Xero has expanded their program beyond this cohort to their 2,000 employees across global offices, including Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the UK understanding the benefits to all intersectional cohorts.
Xero’s deployment of their Mentorloop program signifies a trend towards larger, established businesses recognising the importance of mentoring as a business critical function, rather than a nice-to-have perk. The company leads in the adoption of mentoring, particularly in the tech space where mentoring is deprioritised ahead of other business functions, despite proven benefits.
Effective mentoring boosts retention rates as much as 69 per cent for mentors and 72 per cent for mentees engaged in a mentoring program.
The harsh reality is, the majority of mentors are still picking mentees who look and think like them. What is even worse, in the age of the #MeToo movement, some see men simply rejecting the idea entirely.
One in six male managers is uncomfortable mentoring a female colleague, according to two online surveys by Lean In and SurveyMonkey.
However, when looking at a variety of Mentorloop mentoring programs, we can see this trend need not continue.
Throughout our programs, we are seeing the gender split evolving. Now, more than ever more men are stepping up to mentor women into leadership roles. Their companies are using data brilliantly to steer programs in ways that only mentoring software can provide – proving that when programs are supported and initiated with a clear diversity and inclusion outcome, change can most definitely follow.
Of course, gender-focused mentoring programs aren’t new – but they can be run better.