Mentoring Women: How, When and Where

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This week Dr. David Smith, Naval Academy Professor and author discusses Mentoring Women:  How, When and Where in Pt. 4 of Allies and Mentors: How and Why You Should Develop an Inclusive Approach.  He tells stories of both failed and successful attempts of men offering to mentor women plus gives tips on how, when and where to mentor women.  This talk took place at the Better Man Conference 2017 and you can read the transcript below or watch the video.

For parts 1-3 in this series, visit the following links:

Part 1-Allies and Mentors: How and Why You Should Develop an Inclusive Approach

Part 2-Why Some Guys Don't Mentor Women At Work

Part 3-What Women Want In Male Mentors.

  Dr. David Smith presenting at the Better Man Conference 2017 (Photo Credit: Better Man Conference)

Dr. David Smith presenting at the Better Man Conference 2017 (Photo Credit: Better Man Conference)

Dr. David Smith:

What does this look like to you? (faces towards screen) Two guys at a bar..drinks after work.  It could be mentoring, maybe, who knows, right? They could be. We do that a lot.   

A VP's OFFERS TO MENTOR WOMEN WERE BEING TURNED DOWN BECAUSE IT WAS USUALLY AT NIGHT, AFTER WORK AND AT A BAR

What about this? He could be mentoring, or it could be something more romantic, or a date?   This is one of the challenges when we think about men maybe stepping up and mentoring women in particular.   How do we mentor women, where do we mentor women, when do we mentor women, in particular, right?  We have to be thoughtful about that in our society, in particular.

We talked to one of the senior vice presidents at Goldman Sacs, and he said that he realized after a long period of time that he wasn't able to sustain mentoring with women, because, after a while he figured they were just turning him down on opportunities to get together and talk about their careers and their work and everything they need to be doing.  He realized it was because he was only doing it at night or after work, and usually at the bar. And all the guys were there, of course; they all wanted to be there. But the women, for other reasons, weren't doing that, they had their own reasons for why.

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So he went to what he calls his breakfast-lunch policy, he only mentors at breakfast, and he only mentors at lunch, and he only does it in public places over coffee or whatever, so everybody can see it.  He does it for men, he does it for women, he doesn't care what color you are, what your sexuality is, he does it the same for everybody. We talk a lot about transparency and consistency being really important as you think about the structural part of mentoring and how you’re doing the mentoring out there.

WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT WHERE AND HOW WE'RE DOING THIS

Let me give you one more of those.  About where you mentor, we've already heard some stories today about the golf course.  Think about what time of day you’re mentoring, what day of the week you’re mentoring, and some of this mentoring is often done in social settings.  The golf course, for example, is one. This is where we share insider knowledge, we share hidden politics. As we all know, as you change from organization to organization, you really need that to be able to navigate it. You need to get that insider information to accelerate your way up there.  We need to think about where and how we're doing this.

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AS MENTORS, WE HAVE TO BE THOUGHTFUL ABOUT WHO'S INCLUDED AND WHO'S EXCLUDED

One of our senior vice presidents at KPMG shared a story with us about how she finally became a partner and she got invited into the retreat with all the other partners.  It was a weekend, it was done well in advance. She was there and she had everything taken care of with her family. Guess what, and this is back when they had the all male exclusive golf club, so everywhere she went, she had to be escorted by somebody.  At the end of the night, when they were doing cigars and brandy or whatever in the cabin, of course, she wasn't invited. As mentors, we have to be thoughtful about who’s included and who’s excluded as we look around the room when we do this.

The meetings in the boardroom, the table; who’s at the table, who’s not.  For Robert Lightfoot, again, it was very important that his mentees got a seat at the table, not in the back row, not two rings back, but at the table when there was something that they were involved in.  If it was part of their program, if it was something they should be involved with in resources or decision making, they had a seat at the table. Again, the research shows that when women are contributing at meetings, they’re often not given due credit.  We've heard this over and over again. Almost every woman had a story about how they had this idea, this contribution, and it got glossed over. And three guys later, it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

AS MEN, PEOPLE IN POSITION AND POWER, WE HAVE TO STAND UP FOR WHAT'S RIGHT

As men, people in position and power, we have to stand up for what’s right.  Robert shared a story with us about how we did this in a meeting. He said, “Wait a minute, how is this any different than what Cathy just said over here?” and he got her her credit.

Sheryl Sandburg was gracious enough to work with us.  We did an interview with Sheryl for the book. I’ll share one story from Sheryl, because I think it’s really important.  This kind of goes to the sponsoring piece, it’s about the sponsoring-mentoring. As mentors or sponsors, we have to kick down doors and we have to really showcase what our mentees are doing out there.  Sheryl’s story was about Larry Summers when he was the secretary and this is a positive story, so hopefully we all will enjoy it.

When Larry would be up there and Sheryl was his assistant right out of Harvard, he would say all these great stories about her.  How great Sheryl was doing this, he couldn't live without her for doing this, and it was just wonderful. After a while, Sheryl pulled him aside and said, “Mr. Secretary, you got to stop doing that.” He asked, “What?” She said, “You’re embarrassing me, every time we go out, you’re just boasting about me.” Again, women are socialized not to self-promote.  This again is where we as mentors, can help them. We know we do this for others, we have to do it for our diverse workforce as well. It wasn't always easy for Sheryl, but after a while she understood what Larry was doing for her.

IF THERE'S AN AREA WHERE SHE NEEDS HELP, GIVER HER HELP

Last couple of slides, and then I'm going to finish up here.  We often think about mentoring as being this one dimensional, top-down all-knowing guru who’s going to take all the information out of their head and give it to you.  That might be. In today’s world, I think most of us know that we don't have one mentor. Most of us probably have many mentors. I have men who mentor me, I have women who mentor me, I have lots of mentors, and I have them for different areas of my life as well, like my professional and personal life.  One of the good things that mentors can do, is we can retain a little bit of humility and understanding that we don't have all the answers. If there’s an area where she needs help, give her the help. Get her the connection, get her to that person that can help her do that. Help her to broaden that network out there. And when she does succeed, because she will fly higher because of it, don't be jealous of her success.

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BE THAT GUY - APPROACH MENTORING THOUGHTFULLY AND WITH HUMILITY

What I would tell you as I leave today is, we want to change the name “that guy” because “that guy” has such a negative connotation.  Brad and I like to talk about, “We want you to be that guy.”  We want you to be that guy who approaches mentoring very thoughtfully, and with some gender humility that I don't know all the answers, I don't know all her experiences.  I can't necessarily assume, just because she’s a woman, that she needs this.” So, approach it with a little bit of gender humility, and with a learning orientation that I can actually learn something from my mentee.  One of the great things we learned from so many male mentors was, “Gosh, I really feel guilty because I think I got more out of the relationship than she did. I learned more, I think, than maybe she did.” So, approach each one, be that guy out there, and use your gender humility and learning orientation to get more out of it.

I hope I didn't go too far over here and I peaked your interest to talk about mentoring, it’s something that we don't do enough of.  A lot of us do mentoring, and we don't get enough training and enough time to get thoughtful about how we do it. If nothing else, please do it for her, do it for your organization, and do it for yourself and your family.

Thank you.

Contact Ray@InclusionaryLeaders.com to learn about INCLUSIONARY LEADERSHIP training, GENDER PARTNERSHIP training, COACHING or CONSULTING for your organization.


CALL TO SPEAKERS!

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We invite business professionals, concerned citizens, expert practitioners and allies to share their voices for the 3rd annual Better Man Conference. We are securing dates and locations soon, but looking forward to these timelines/locations:

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  Better Man Conference 2017

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