Guest Blogger: Laura Gail Lunsford, Ph.D., Director of the UNCW Swain Center
According to the US Census by 2060 almost 1 in 5 people in the US will be foreign born and 56 of every 100 people will be from what we now consider a minority race or ethnic group. The coming wave of ethnic diversification in the U.S. workforce makes it even more important that companies promote inclusive mentoring.
We are drawn to people who are like us, who share our values, and who have similar backgrounds or experiences. Indeed, there are some who would advocate that mentors need to share the same race or gender (or some other demographic characteristic) as their protégé. And yet, a fact of organizational life is that diversity is rarely equally distributed among functional areas or from the entry level to the C-suite. Further, even if it were more beneficial for a woman to mentor another woman in some cases there simply are not enough female mentors to go around.
This topic is gaining interest – perhaps in part because of the diversification of the workforce. Lately, my colleagues have been featured in the media from an Atlantic Magazine article titled "When potential mentors are mostly white and male", to a book for men on how to mentor women titled Athena Rising, and in a book titled Mentoring Diverse Leaders.
It is tricky as some folks don’t want to be part of special mentoring initiatives for women, African Americans, etc. because they want to be known for their work, not their gender, race or other characteristics.
How can you be sure inclusive mentoring is a part of your company culture?
1. Formal mentoring programs go a long way to ‘leveling’ the playing field and making sure that all talented employees have access to mentorship.
2. Training can help mentors be more aware of ‘unconscious bias’. Although some research suggests that such training can make such biases more accepted rather than rejected!
3. Examine your organization’s mentoring culture. Take a look around your organization – how widely known are professional development opportunities, a chance to take on plum assignments, and mentoring opportunities?
4. Are informal mentoring opportunities equally available? They often occur because of social interactions outside of the workplace or workday.
5. Formal mentoring programs go a long way to ‘leveling’ the playing field and making sure that all talented employees have access to mentorship.