Mentoring can be of great value to women and people of color. These are the employees who have often been disenfranchised within organizations and have not been “chosen” by informal mentors.
However, if mentoring is to be successful as a tool for empowering employees, it needs to be truly diverse—representing everyone within the organization and not just women and people of color. By including the broadest spectrum of people, mentoring offers everyone the opportunity to grow professionally and personally without regard to gender or race. A successful mentoring program needs to balance the need for inclusion with the need for fair representation.
For many years, some organizations thought of mentoring only as a tool to help women and people of color. Viewed inappropriately as a remedial program, mentoring lacked widespread support within most organizations.
These mentoring programs did not provide mentorees with the assistance they really needed. Good intentions gone astray resulted in a misapplication of mentoring.
Diversity is equally important when choosing mentors within organizations. Because many mentoring programs are geared to management levels, today’s mentor population still tends to be made up of white males.
As organizations seek to devise mentoring programs, they need to include mentors who are both non-white and non-male. Using the resource-based or group-based models, tied to the one-on-one mentoring model, can help diversify the mentor population.
For example, one of the mentoring goals might be to learn how to navigate effectively through the organization’s culture. Using the group model, an organization might have a panel of diverse employees meeting with the entire mentor-mentoree population to share how they have successfully navigated that culture.
Further reading on diversity:
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