Is Good Mentorship Tied to Gender?
As funny as it sounds, many years ago, when somebody mentioned the year 2020, I imagined a world with flying cars and vacations to the moon. While we’re not quite there, technology has come a long way—flying cars notwithstanding—but a lot of things have remained traditional… archaic, even.
Among these things are gender inequality in the workplace, including the gender pay gap and the overall vision of men being better mentors than women. To me, it’s crazy that after years of fighting to overcome gender barriers, these issues persist.
Too often, when we picture what workplace mentorship looks like, the mentor role is filled by a man, imparting wisdom on a younger, eager version of himself. Female mentors (and mentees!) are far less common. Think about it: despite the fact that women are becoming more and more experienced and taking up more leadership roles, how often do we hear about women leaders as mentors, especially for young men, versus male figures being mentors? Not that often!
While men and women can both lead effectively, existing inequality has forged different paths and mindsets for today’s leaders of varying genders—and both male experiences and female experiences along the path to the top can provide valuable insight for any young up-and-comer, regardless of gender.
Why is this such a difficult thing to talk about? We can come up with a long list of reasons, but if we want to change the narrative, we need to raise our voices.
Recognized business consultant, Rania H. Anderson, mentions in her content piece “Challenging Our Gendered Idea of Mentorship” that big companies like Home Depot and PepsiCo have had women leaders mentoring and sponsoring men that take on leadership roles. It is something that happens, and that is extremely beneficial to both mentor and mentee. We just don’t hear that much about it.
“I can’t emphasize enough the value of future leaders having a great mentor, sponsor, even a great coach.”– Alec Bashinsky, Global HR & Transformation Leader
Good mentorship supersedes gender
I believe that being a good mentor goes beyond gender. In my opinion, a good mentor combines feelings and facts when sharing their knowledge with the mentee. Some people could argue that women are better mentors because they rely on emotions when making big decisions and teaching others, while men are more data-driven, but I think that this mentality is part of the problem.
I spent 12 years of my career working with a gentleman named John Prichard, Jr., a respected insurance veteran and devoted family man who has a heart of gold. His mentorship and guidance got me through many personal and professional challenges. Over the course of that tenure, I had the opportunity to be in a variety of roles that often pushed me outside of my comfort zone. The end result? I learned a TON and those experiences prepared me for the role I’m in today.
Since then, I’ve had several junior teammates, male and female alike, seek mentorship from me. All my mentees have expressed their admiration for my discipline, listening skills and opportunity to speak up when I really have something to contribute in a way that is direct and honest. To me, this is a good indicator that times and perceptions are changing. At the end of the day, my career journey provides perfect examples proving that good mentorship shouldn’t be linked to gender.
It doesn’t matter where in your career you are if you feel that approaching a person and ask for mentorship is what you need to grow and get to the next level, my advice is to not be afraid to do it. Say goodbye to stereotypes and give yourself the opportunity to learn from a person that is an expert. To be a strong leader you must lead yourself first and it seems those whom I’ve seen raise their hand and seek the guidance are learning and growing.
Do you have any mentors that have made an impact on your career? Have you struggled to find mentorship in your industry? I want to hear all about your experience. Connect with me on LinkedIn.