#MentorHer: Make a life by what you give!

#MentorHer: Make a life by what you give!

August 02, 2018

When questioned about the secret sauce of success, I am always stating: Have great mentors.

Mentors are experienced, trusted advisors who are ready to help in career matters and clearly beyond. They are a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction. They tell “the good, the bad & the ugly“; i.e. give honest answers on questions like “What could I do better?”, Why did this project didn’t work well?” or “How can I find more strategic allies to win?”. Feedback is a gift. Hence feedback from mentors is the most “real” we might receive in our professional lives. It is non-sugarcoated – something which might be too rare in the day-to-day business to grow even further.

Especially Professional Services is known to define mentorship as an integral part of their annual 360° assessment culture where “grow or go” is the mantra.

Hence it is devastating to learn that the number of men who are afraid to mentor women has tripled in the wake of #MeToo. That’s why I am intrigued about the launch of #MentorHer this week – a campaign that calls on men to mentor women. LeanIn.Org, co-founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to promote gender equality in the workplace, and SurveyMonkey partnered to understand what men and women are feeling in the wake of #MeToo.

There is evidence of a severe backlash. Here are some key findings:

  1. Almost half of male managers are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together.
  2. Almost every third male manager is uncomfortable working alone with a woman – more than twice as many as before.
  3. Senior men are 3.5 times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior-level woman than with a junior-level man – and 5 times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior-level woman.

This is a trend in the wrong direction.

To date, women are 54% less likely to have a sponsor and 24% less likely to get advice from senior leaders. Now more than ever, we need men working with – and mentoring – women. Mentorship and sponsorship are critical to promotions and raises, stretch assignments and flexibility. They are critical to the success of women across all industries and all levels. Everyone benefits when a more experienced colleague shows the ropes or sponsors new opportunities.

Women are already underrepresented at senior levels in most organizations, according to McKinsey’s study “Women in the Workplace 2017”. If fewer men mentor women, fewer women will rise to leadership. We even see it at the very top: one of the reasons women and minorities are underrepresented on corporate boards is that they get mentored less. This prevents them from participating in ways that convince other directors to nominate them for additional boards. As long as this imbalance of power remains, women and other marginalized groups are at greater risk of being overlooked or undermined.

As Sheryl Sandberg states:

“Men vastly outnumber women as managers and senior leaders, so when they avoid, ice out, or exclude women, we pay the price.”

No one learns in a vacuum. Hence searching for the “perfect fit” in a mentor makes sense knowing that they can take a variety of roles, completely depending on the individual needs. The spectrum holds the “wise veteran”, the “eager teacher”, the “generous peer”, the “life coach” or the “good listener”. Whomever you pick, make sure they follow Benjamin Disraeli’s dictum

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”

Mentors have their ear to the ground on our behalf and know our hallway reputation. As a marketer, I should have a good sense of my own “personal brand”. Mentors, however, have always helped understand blind spots. So on a very personal note, I would like to say a special THANK YOU to those male mentors who never shied away from #MentorHer and who guided me the most in the past two decades: @Christian Burger, @Roman Friedrich, @Klaus-Peter Gushurst, @Rod Harrington and @Mike Jablonski. All of them truly lived to Winston Churchill’s saying:

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

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