Business Mentoring Matters
I was recently invited by a prospective client to meet with the mentoring team to discuss diversity and mentoring. Their goal was to use mentoring to promote diversity within the organization in order to promote the advancement of diverse individuals. After an hour of good conversation, it became clear that the organization was not prepared to implement a specific diversity program. The main issue was that the company could not guarantee that people of diversity would be promoted within two years of implementing the program. Since that’s the case, people of diversity would view this as window dressing as opposed to as a serious effort to promote diversity.
We write often about the connection between diversity initiatives and corporate mentoring programs.
Diversity in the workplace is not just a hot buzz term. Workplace diversity initiatives are important for many reasons, including:
The American Sociological Association published a great study* "Diversity Management in Corporate America" in 2007 that I often refer to when considering the role of mentoring in diversity management. The ASA study asked and answered the following question:
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.
We were asked a great question on our blog recently and thought we'd share the answer with the rest of our blog subscribers. The question was:
The following is an excerpt from our feature article Who's The Mentor Now: A Word of Caution about Reverse Business Mentoring by Judith Ashton, Esq., and Rene Petrin. To download your free copy of the complete article, click here.