Mentoring Women Is Not About Trying to “Rescue” Them
We know that male mentors and sponsors are essential for helping talented women get ahead. When women are mentored by men, they make more money, receive more promotions, and report greater satisfaction with their career trajectories. Although advantageous for all employees, mentoring is particularly helpful to women for addressing the myriad barriers to career advancement. But in the wake of the #MeToo Movement there are growing whispers among some men that it just isn’t safe to mentor women. We’ve also heard from some men who are having the opposite reaction, determining to mentor and “save” more women. While we applaud their good intentions, this attitude is also unlikely to have the results they want.
Let’s just start by saying the obvious: of course men should mentor women. It’s wrong (and illegal) to exclude half the population. But taking a save-the-day approach won’t work very well, either. Even the standard mentoring approach of the mentor as all-knowing guru, dispensing knowledge, implies a hierarchical, one-way relationship that can frame men who mentor women as champions, heroes, even rescuers. In this model, the mentor shares wisdom, throws down challenges, and when necessary, protects his protégé from all malignant forces in the organization. Enter the chivalrous knight-damsel in distress archetype. As Jennifer de Vries has astutely observed, painting male allies and mentors as heroic rescuers actually strengthens the gendered status quo, inadvertently reinforcing male positional power while framing women as ill-prepared for serious leadership roles...
To read the full article by W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith. visit Harvard Business Review.