How Mentoring Benefits Diversity Initiatives
Mentoring provides the missing action link to diversity initiatives through the simple act of bringing people together and teaching them to engage in a reciprocal learning process. The creation of many mentoring partnerships, especially those that are cross-organizational, enriches both the pool of knowledge and the individuals who participate. Mentoring partnerships contribute to a sense of community within an organization and that, in turn, encourages increased knowledge sharing and employee longevity with the company or public agency. Achieving these goals is what diversity initiatives say they are about. But getting there without an action component capable of driving towards the initiative will not yield the desired outcome. Through its action orientation, mentoring becomes a key and critical component of diversity.
Achieving inclusion and equity requires actions that 1) build relationships among the employees across and through the “Glass Ceiling” and 2) achieve equitable representation of under-represented groups in its leadership pipeline. One tactic which has the capacity to give these goals the required action is mentoring. Mentoring is a multi-faceted process which when properly implemented can achieve the most elusive of diversity goals – inclusion and equity. Mentoring gives a diversity strategy its “legs.”
Mentoring is a Multi-Layered tactic because mentoring operates at several layers simultaneously, it has the power to change the dynamics that take place between people and ultimately within an entire organization.
These mentoring dialogues take the diversity initiative out of the realm of theory and awareness and into the realm of experience. Learning about another’s life, outlook, goals and challenges drives a lasting appreciation of differences as a value, not a deficiency. It is an ongoing dialogue in which the parties engage for the purpose of development of one or both parties. The person doing the sharing from a position of greater knowledge and experience is usually referred to as the mentor.
A mentor shares that knowledge with a mentee – or sometimes referred to as a protégé – who typically has less knowledge and experience in a particular subject, discipline, profession or employment history within an organization. Mentoring relationships, once cultivated, can last for many months or years. It is in the initiation of mentoring relationships that under-represented populations within organizations find themselves lacking.
The mentoring dialogue makes available to the mentee ever-increasing critical knowledge resources, especially the non-technical information the unwritten rules of an organization that govern so much of the decision-making. Mentors can gain a first-hand look at the talent and potential of their mentees and gather the data they need to feel confident in sponsoring them for greater responsibility.
(excerpted from Mentoring: A Core Strategy for Inclusion and Equity: Dr. Rita Boags, 2005)