Tips for Men Who Are Nervous About Mentoring Women

By Harvard Business Review
April 23, 2019

Male leaders are needed to support the ascension of women in the workplace, but the #MeToo movement is leading to unnecessary reluctance.

Many senior male managers are reportedly responding to the #MeToo movement with a “better safe than sorry” attitude and pulling back from mentoring women.

This reaction is not just biased, but shortsighted: Depriving female employees of the counseling, developmental opportunities and visibility that come from mentoring relationships has serious consequences for the future of any organization.

How should men approach mentoring in today’s workplace? Here are five suggestions:

Seek out women mentees: Do you engage with men more than women? Open dialogue, suspending judgment and identifying common interests and values can help correct the imbalance.

Be transparent: Be transparent about the relationship and its professional nature. Reflect on the timing and the context of your typical mentoring conversations; if dining out together feels inappropriate, ask yourself why.

Listen with empathy: Good mentors help mentees learn and grow. This requires asking questions and then listening to understand and validate what your mentee’s needs.

Acknowledge gender issues: Ask your protégé how gender has affected her career. Ask how she experiences the culture of your organization, if she experiences the policies and practices as supportive. Ask what opportunities she sees for improvement.

Actively sponsor her: If you are in a position of influence, think about how to raise your protégé’s visibility. Expose her to the complexities of your role and introduce her to other leaders in positions of power. Raise her name as a high potential candidate for promotion in both formal and informal conversations.

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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