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Mentoring is the ultimate secret for a more inclusive workplace

For every 100 men promoted to manager-level roles, only 79 women moved up into similar roles. The numbers are even more abysmal for women of color, who make up only 17% of entry-level roles and 4% of C-suite positions, according to the 2018 Women in the Workplace report released by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org. Women, people of colour and other underrepresented employees face systemic challenges in the workplace when it comes to career progression.

Mentoring provides a chance for women, people of colour and other underrepresented employees to tackle these challenges in a meaningful way. One 2016 study in the American Sociological Review found that mentoring, in comparison to other corporate tactics increased minority representation among managers in the workplace anywhere from 9 to 24 percent.

In this article, we will look at three ways that mentoring is the ultimate secret for a more inclusive workplace.

1 - Mentoring fosters equity

It is worth remembering the difference between equity and equality. Although both promote fairness, equality achieves this through treating everyone the same regardless of need, while equity achieves this through treating people differently depending on need. A truly inclusive workplace cannot exist without equity, meaning that all individuals should have equal access to opportunities.

In his book “Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed,” Harvey Coleman notes that there are three factors that comprise success in the workplace: performance, image and exposure. According to the author, 90% of success at work is attributed to image, or the impression an organization has about their ability to succeed (30%), and exposure, or access to opportunities (60%).

Mentoring relationships help focus on that other 90% of success: image and exposure.

The mentor can share feedback on how the mentee is perceived and can explore ways the mentee can show up authentically and favorably.

The mentor can also increase exposure by presenting new career opportunities, offering glamour work, and introduce the mentee to people with influence in the organisation.

Often, just knowing there is someone in the organization who understands and values them for who they are can help improve mentees’ performance and create a willingness to contribute to their best potential.

2 - Mentoring increases retention of minority employees

Mentors are usually leaders that have a position of authority, power and influence in the organisation. When these leaders become mentors and are paired with employees from underrepresented groups, it often leads to greater retention through greater visibility of these groups within the workforce. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), 44% of CEOs cited that mentorship programs as one of the three most valuable strategies to advance women into Senior Management. Mentors can give their mentees visibility and serve as a sponsor within the organization. A 2016 study published by Cornell University showed that mentorship programs helped to increase the promotion and retention rates of minority men and women by 15-38% compared to non-mentored minorities. Test your knowledge on diversity with this two-minute quiz.

3 - Mentoring drives greater engagement

When a workplace supports mentoring initiatives that are part of a diversity and inclusion programme, mentees get access to insights from their mentors, as well as an opportunity to connect in a one-to-one setting that fosters relationships and creates belonging. Reverse mentoring, in particular, where the mentee teaches the mentor his or her insights, is a powerful way to foster connection, belonging and inclusion. Watch my video on reverse mentoring here to learn more. In that context, mentoring drives conversations across generations, cultures, genders and more, where both parties benefit.

There has never been a better time that now to strengthen your commitment to make your workplace more inclusive and productive. If your goal is to support a more diverse and inclusive workplace, mentoring should be a key part of your strategy. Mentoring fosters equity, increases retention of minority employees and drives greater engagement. Mentoring also fosters employee connection, builds a positive culture, and increases visibility of underrepresented groups. For more advice on how mentoring can support your diversity and inclusion initiative, contact or get this free, step-by-step ebook and learn how to become the ultimate diversity champion right now.

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