Are You Putting an End to ‘Mini-Me’ Mentoring?

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Not all mentoring is born the same (just like people!)

Unfortunately, traditional, old-school mentoring is blind to this diversity.
For years, mentoring has been about finding a protégé to the older and wiser (and usually, white male) – for many, simply finding someone that looks like themselves.

Thankfully, we believe this is the mentoring of the past. Hello, wonderful future!

However, the hangover of this style of mentoring still impacts the way we lift and support one another among organisations.

New research from the Center for Talent Innovation, a New York-based non-profit that advises companies on diversity, has discovered 71% of mentors say that their chosen mentees are the same race and gender as they are.

When mentors are found picking only mentees who look and think like them, this cultivates a culture of mentoring where only more of the same kind of people are likely to grow and thrive in a company.

So what is happening here?

Dubbed as “mini-me syndrome,” it is described as an unconscious instinct to favour those who remind us of ourselves. This, in turn, makes the individual more inclined to believe in their potential.

When this notion creeps into organisational mentoring, even those companies who claim they have reached a desired diversity of people are more likely to see a gap in inclusion actually expand.

The same voices get louder.

The impact is very real, stirring up the typical diversity and inclusion issues that we’re all familiar with – the same kinds of people are presented with the same opportunities, nurtured into the same roles and cultivate the same higher-developed skills – leaving others, behind.

Without a variety of voices and perspectives, those in leadership overlook the specific needs of their teams, and make it tough for those in a minority demographic or social group to speak up and voice their concerns.

It’s not a secret that numerous studies tell us that diversity alone doesn’t drive inclusion.

When a variety of voices and perspectives are in play, this provides organisations with the feedback to then go on to make better, more informed decisions. Programs and initiatives can be formed to lift cohorts up that need it most – and even design better, mentoring programs.

Without ensuring our mentoring programs address this from the beginning, it can compromise an employee’s authenticity. What does that look like? It might mean, “acting like one of the boys” for example.

Research on women in STEM industries shows that this type of inauthentic behaviour can often provide an advantage in becoming a leader in these fields, so it continues. However, it also diminishes morale.

I’ll allow this wonderful Pixar short to explain it better (and probably get you in the feels).

So now what?

The old, ‘actions speak louder than words’ saying works well here – demonstrate commitment and lead by example.

85% of employers consider improved diversity and inclusion a high priority, but 45% have no diversity strategy.

As an individual, you can commit to mentoring someone that doesn’t look or think like you, and gain a new perspective on another age group, race, gender or culture.

Mentoring across social and demographic lines benefits mentors just as much as mentees – creating more empathic, emotionally intelligent leaders who can understand and identify obstacles people face when they aren’t part of a dominant group.

Diversity without inclusion is simply a black hole of missed opportunities – where employees are so conditioned to be overlooked that they no longer feel inspired to share ideas and insights. But when we nurture diversity with inclusion, we unlock a rich mix of sustainable talent retention and engagement.

Make a move to mentor someone that is different from you. 

To start a guided culture of mentoring in your organisation, get in touch with one of our mentoring specialists, today.

Start a culture of mentoring today

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Emily Ryan
Emily Ryan
Head of Marketing at Mentorloop. Observing tens of thousands of mentoring relationships, she is passionate about helping people get the most from their mentoring experience. When not writing, you'll find her brewing beer or globe-trotting.

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