#MentorHer has come hot on the heels of the global #MeToo movement; a movement encouraging millions of people to speak out about sexual harassment and violence against women.
It appears that an unintended externality from the #MeToo movement is that some well-intentioned men are now approaching how they interact with women in the workplace more cautiously.
According to a recent survey:
Almost half of male managers are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socialising together. Additionally, the number who said they were uncomfortable mentoring women more than tripled, from 5% to 16%.
This is obviously massively detrimental to the already stifled plight of gender parity in the workplace, and could begin reinforcing the still-stubborn gender partition, and erasing some of the incremental progress we have made.
On the back of this survey and news, hundreds of well-known and renowned male CEO’s, executives and founders have pledged to #MentorHer, including Disney’s Bob Iger, General Motors’ Mary Barra and Netflix’s Reed Hastings.
If you are a male looking to pledge your commitment to #MentorHer, Mentorloop’s founders have just energised the movement in Australia, and you can pledge your commitment and read more about it here on SmartCompany.
This is a great start, but there is another massively influential and heavily invested party in this equation who can carry a lot of this movement on their broad and powerful shoulders. A party which can make a more dramatic impact than anything else, and ease the difficult situation for both men and women — and that’s organisations.
The organisations where the vast majority of us men and women reside and work, and where the vast majority of these interactions occur and originate.
Why should organisations get involved in championing #MentorHer?
Getting involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives wouldn’t be new or out of character for organisations. Companies all over the world (some sectors and industries more than others) have already been spending millions per year on diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Why? Because a lack of diversity is a problem — both from a moral and financial standpoint.
The latest studies point to the fact that gender diversity at the upper management level is closely correlated with financial performance:
Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
In the United Kingdom, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10% increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5%.
And if this isn’t reason enough for organisations to get involved in and be proactive about #MentorHer, then the moral obligation should be.
This type of statistic doesn’t bode well for women, organisations or humans. We all need to play a part in redirecting this trajectory, and making that shift more swiftly.
And redirecting the ship will require conscious effort and muscle, a lot of which can and should come from organisations. Organisations who can stand up, be counted, and make proactive changes which align with and leverage movements like #MentorHer.
What can organisations really do though?
At Mentorloop, we believe the right connection can change a life.
We all benefit when a colleague or connection shows us the ropes, gives us a push, or sponsors us for a new opportunity. But accessing these connections is not always available to everyone.
And this is why organisations need to make mentoring more accessible, encouraged — and more formalised.
Informalities create subjectivity, which create anxiety around not knowing whether you are doing the right thing. Simply formalising a process naturally normalises the process.
Part of the rising anxiety males feel when mentoring females is derived from reality, but much of it is grounded in recency bias, perception, and lack of exposure to the act in question (men don’t mentor women a whole lot as it is).
It’s a bit of an echo chamber right now.
By making mentoring a more formal, structured, and integral process, organisations would be giving a massive green light to mentoring, and normalising the process of men mentoring women, women mentoring men, reverse mentoring etc.
They would be creating an environment whereby men and women can be comfortable with mentoring each other; an environment where it’s demystified and expected.
With a formal mentoring program, organisations also have more room to create standards and frameworks which both parties can lean on and enjoy operating in:
- Organisations make the ‘matches’ which takes the discrimination and ‘choice’ out of the equation
- Set expectations about how and where mentors and mentees should meet
- Encourage the mentee’s (and provide them with the tools) to take the lead on booking meetings and setting the agenda. This way the mentor knows that the mentee is comfortable.
- Create mentoring circles or group-loops in Mentorloop speak. This enables mentoring to take place in a group setting where everyone is comfortable. It’s also a great forum for mentoring, sharing and bouncing ideas, and can creates better outcomes than one-to-one mentorships.
Beyond making these mentoring programs more formal and available, mentoring also needs to be more democratic in nature. Many organisational mentoring programs are focused on HiPo employees; employees who have shown high potential and therefore should be mentored as a part of their extracurricular training in the knowledge that they are management and promotion material.
HiPo mentoring feeds straight back into the problematic cycle being perpetuated: more men are managers and executives; these male managers mentor high potentials (who are more likely to be male given they are more comfortable mentoring other men); and so more men get mentored and sponsored which then reinforces itself in a vicious and unfair cycle.
Selective mentoring (like HiPo mentoring) is less effective. It fails to capture the potential of mentoring to unlock latent talent and underserved people and groups; the 90% of people who account for the vast majority of organisational productivity.
It’s critical that organisations look to programs like mentoring as company-wide tools. To focus on the role these programs can play in creating inclusivity — which then unlock diversity.
And why reserve a mentor for high performers when everyone can benefit from a mentor — and when all mentors can benefit from helping someone else out too.
What’s the potential downside?
Besides the relatively low costs associated with creating and running a mentoring program, there is no downside.
I can’t imagine any reasonable employee or person would be disturbed or perturbed by having to volunteer an hour of their time per month to helping someone else at the company out, whether male or female. And I certainly can’t imagine any push-back from mentee’s, who have an incredible amount of value to gain and integrate back into the organisation.
In fact, beyond the #MentorHer movement, organisations have an incredible number of tangible benefits to gain from making mentoring a larger part of their diversity, learning and development, and people and culture strategy.
The other obvious positives are great PR, attracting new fans, and increasing the loyalty of current ones: both men and women are looking to work for more inclusive organisations, vendors are looking to work for value-oriented organisations, and consumers are looking to buy from value-based and mission-driven organisations.
It’s unfortunate that we have to have the #MentorHer conversation. But we do. And we need parties who can positively influence the situation to get onboard and make a difference.
We need more organisations to carry these movements forward because we can’t do it without them. We can’t make this a global movement with global impact unless organisations shoulder some of the responsibility.
And they have just as much to gain from #MentorHer as anyone else.
The best way for your organisation to get behind the #MentorHer movement is to build a formal mentoring program. The best way to build a formal mentoring program is using Mentorloop’s mentoring software.