Why more men should mentor women: Q&A with the authors of Athena Rising.

Why more men should mentor women: Q&A with the authors of Athena Rising

Ellen Patterson, Group Head, General Counsel and Chair of Women in Leadership at TD sits down with co-authors of the book, Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women, to discuss how men can help drive gender equality at work through mentorship, and the benefits these relationships can have for all parties.

There's plenty of research linking diversity with better business results, increased innovation and improved talent retention. And everyone has a role to play in fostering greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

However, recent data from LeanIn.org, a non-profit focused on women's empowerment, indicates that men are increasingly withdrawing from interactions with women in the workplace. In a survey of over 5,000 participants, 60 per cent of male managers say they're uncomfortable participating in common work activities with women(32 per cent more than 2018), such as mentoring, one-on-one meetings, or socializing. This data is troubling and should prompt us to increase our efforts in support of a more inclusive work environment.

Brad Johnson, PhD, and David Smith, PhD are the co-authors of the book Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women, which draws from their extensive research and experience as experts in gender workplace issues. TD recently hosted Brad and David at a Women in Leadership event where they shared their insights on mentorship, gender inequality and workplace transformation. I sat down with the co-authors to discuss their book and the topic of men acting as allies for women in their careers.

Ellen: Your book speaks to why it's vital for men to mentor women. What do you mean by this?

David: Junior women may set out to find someone who looks like them as a mentor, only to become frustrated when there are few, if any, examples. Some senior women in male-dominated businesses may also be hesitant to mentor a junior woman until she has proven herself because of the risk that this may be viewed as preferential treatment. So, we need men to be excellent mentors for women. Because many power positions in many organizations are still occupied by men today, they should be involved with mentoring emerging talent who will be the future leaders of these organizations. These male leaders can then use their social capital, networks and influence to benefit talented women and create more inclusive organizations.

Ellen: What was your inspiration in writing this book?

Brad: Companies that are working to improve gender diversity and equity focus on policies and programs to increase recruitment of women and eliminate overt discrimination. However, these efforts are destined to be fruitless if there is no focus on how men can be part of the solution for gender equity and parity. 

Having worked for the military, we knew that it might be more effective for us, as men, to start this conversation about the need for men to act as allies while providing the social science evidence from our disciplines of psychology and sociology to support the message.

Evidence consistently shows that women face more barriers in securing mentorships than men, and when they do find a mentor, they may reap a narrower range of both career and psychological benefits. When men lean in to the roles of ally and mentor for women, they stand to help level the playing field for women at work.

Ellen: What has your research demonstrated about the characteristics of effective mentoring?

Brad: An excellent mentoring relationship requires a mentor who can listen, understand and affirm a mentee’s unique experiences and dreams. Only in this kind of supportive relationship can the trust and commitment needed for real personal and professional growth occur. An excellent mentor will show empathy, affirmation and positive encouragement for their mentee. The mentor understands the importance of friendship, openness and reciprocity in the mentoring relationship while maintaining professionalism.

Ellen: Even among women, there is so much diversity. Does your research reveal differences for women who are diverse in other ways, such as women who are visible minorities or LGBTQ, for example?

David: As if things weren’t challenging enough for women at work, there is evidence that women of colour must contend with both gender and racial bias. One African-American aphorism captures the experience of women of colour at work: “You have to work twice as hard to get half as far.”

As with any bias or prejudice in the workplace, people who don’t feel valued, respected or like they belong are more likely to leave their position, experience job burnout and have lower job satisfaction. As with men or any other group, not all women have the same experiences at work. In listening and developing awareness of differences that exist within a group and how experiences may overlap, allies appreciate the complexities of multiple identities (for example, being a woman and also an African-American).

Allies seek to understand the experiences of women of colour related to having multiple obstacles to face when exposed to multiple disadvantages, often referred to as double jeopardy, or invisibility, should they not fit a certain prototype. Often, members of non-dominant cultures will "cover" or downplay the ways that they differ from the dominant culture. Aware of “covering” behavior and how it can create challenges with authenticity, allies create interactions and an environment where people are valued for their whole selves.

Ellen: Your book shares 46 tips on an effective mentoring relationship. If you could pick three that stand out, which ones would they be?


  1. Male mentors who approach mentoring relationships with genuine gender humility are most effective. Men’s perceptions about women and how they are fundamentally different from men can get in the way of a productive relationship. Men who mentor women often quickly come to understand that their female mentees are not all that different than themselves when it comes to values and priorities at work.

  2. Providing critical feedback to mentees can be a challenge for mentors due to concerns that they may hurt their mentee's feelings. However, not providing this undermines someone's ability to grow and develop by learning important lessons.

  3. Men need to be aware of who is included and who is not when there are important meetings and events. A quick look around the room should be enough to realize who is not in the room and the conversation. Women should have a seat at the table and a voice.

Originally posted on https://newsroom.td.com/featured-news/why-more-men-should-mentor-women-q-a-with-the-authors-of-athena-rising

Knowledge Is Best Shared: Nontraditional mentoring programs help companies develop employees by recognizing that everyone can contribute to knowledge-sharing.

By Arlene S. Hirsch

Jack Welch pioneered one of the first nontraditional mentoring programs in 1999. The former CEO of General Electric paired 500 top leaders (including himself) with junior associates who taught the leaders how to use the Internet. In return the associates gained greater visibility.

Two decades later, companies are using similar reverse mentoring programs and newer so-called reciprocal mentoring programs to meet a variety of business challenges.

Reverse and reciprocal mentorship programs vary in scale and scope, but they all share a common approach, says Jason Wingard, dean of Columbia University's School of Professional Studies and former chief learning officer at Goldman Sachs. "They coordinate shared learning between colleagues of diverse backgrounds to create symbiotic corporate learning."

In addition, these mentoring programs are part of a broader societal shift from a knowledge economy to a learning economy.

With reciprocal mentoring, all employees regardless of job level, age, gender, ethnicity and so on, take turns being mentors and mentees, and everyone essentially learns something from everyone.

While some organizations have been slow to adopt these nontraditional mentoring programs, others have recognized that all employees—from the most-senior executives to the greenest assistants—have knowledge and life experience worth tapping into.

"Traditional mentoring is built around the concept of a knowledge economy where knowledge flows from the top down," says Sanghamitra Chaudhuri, a lecturer in organizational leadership and policy development at the University of Minnesota. "In a learning economy, everyone is a guide because everyone has knowledge to share."

Bridging the Generation Gap

The top two reasons employers want younger workers to mentor senior leaders involve technology and relationships. Primarily, employers want leaders to learn new technologies. "Technology is the most common umbrella," says Chris Browning, president of River Software, a Colorado mentoring software company. In addition, employers want to help senior leaders "get more in touch with younger generations."

When Sachse Construction, a 170-person general contracting firm in Detroit, launched a reverse mentoring program in 2016, the primary goal was to build better relationships between Baby Boomer leaders and junior-level Millennials.

"We are a learning culture," CEO Todd Sachse says. "We are passionate about training and obsessed with learning. We started the program so that employees from different generations can learn from each other."

Each month last year, about a dozen mentoring pairs met offsite. They discussed a variety of predetermined topics, including the impact of technology, work/life balance, generational labels, education versus work experience, motivation and each workers' future with the company.

Candice Susak, the training associate who runs the company's program, was Sachse's first mentor. Among the things she conveyed to him is how Millennials value having a sense of purpose in their work and knowing that the company is making a positive impact in the world.

"The reverse mentoring program reflects one of our company's core values: 'working to excel every day.' That's something I feel passionate about," Susak says.

At the same time, the program has been a valuable professional development tool for her.

"I used to doubt myself a lot," Susak says. "Knowing that the CEO and president have confidence in me to run the program has really helped my confidence. I can see myself being a leader someday."

Reverse mentoring has also been instrumental to recruiting and retaining Millennials at Sachse—no small feat in an industry where many employers struggle to attract and keep younger employees.

Why? Because engagement is a related primary objective of any reverse mentoring program, says Laura Francis, VP of marketing for River Software.

'In a learning economy, everyone is a guide because everyone has knowledge to share.'
Sanghamitra Chaudhuri

"When we talk about the benefits of a reverse mentoring program, we usually focus on engagement first, and then retention, because engagement leads to retention," Francis says. "Millennials are quick to jump ship if they don't feel like they're being challenged and recognized."

"Millennials are going to be running the company someday," Sachse says. "If we're not listening to them and learning from them, we're going to lose them."

Building Leadership Capabilities

Experience notwithstanding, many senior executives don't have the skills needed to lead a 21st century workforce shaped by rapidly changing technology and staff demographics. Reverse mentoring programs can help remedy that deficit.

When PwC Consulting in London launched its program in 2014, the top objective was to help leaders become more effective at heading diverse teams.

"We wanted to help partners in our business get a clearer perspective of what it's like for women and employees from different ethnic backgrounds to work in the business and take that into account in their decision making," says Kalee Talvitie-Brown, partner and head of people. "The program makes them better leaders, and that makes for better client engagements."

The program also encourages junior-level mentors to be more proactive and develop their own leadership capabilities.

Kam Dhaliwal, 30, is a mid-level manager at PwC who's currently mentoring a senior leader. Although she was initially nervous about participating, she found that she benefited greatly from the relationship and from the quarterly meetings she attends with other mentors.

Workers Lack Confidence


Source: Deloitte

When mentors and mentees meet, while each conversation may be fluid, it's important for the participants to have an open discussion about their expectations for the relationship.

"With my mentee," Dhaliwal says, "we talked about our different backgrounds―what my experience is like as a woman from a different ethnic background, about well-being, diversity and inclusion, and reverse mentoring."

For him, she said, "it was important to talk about communications, leadership and how to ensure that he has an inclusive leadership style."

That type of education is essential. "Regardless of the topic, the most important element of the discussion is not the information exchange; it's leadership development," says David Smith, co-author with Brad Johnson, Ph.D., of Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women (Routledge, 2016) "Leading the discussion is a learning experience for the junior member on how to organize and present information, as well as how to facilitate dialogue."

Mixed-Gender Mentorship

When Joe Creed, VP of the finance services division at Caterpillar Inc. in Chicago, was first paired with Meghan Lundeen, an HR manager in global information systems, as part of the company's cross-gender reverse mentoring program, he found the role reversal disconcerting.

"Our discussions sometimes include various challenges she's facing, and my natural inclination as a leader is to flip the script and offer her advice and counsel," Creed wrote in a Caterpillar employee blog post. "But listening and seeking to understand needs to come first, followed by a two-way discussion on how the situation should best be handled."

Ultimately, their conversations offered him unique insights into the daily experience of female Caterpillar employees. It helped him to gain a better understanding of the company's culture and climate, he said, and to become a more perceptive leader.

Yet, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, there have been reports that some men are shying away from mentoring women.

"That sets up a false narrative that women are dangerous because they're demanding not to be harassed," says Johnson, coauthor of Athena Rising. "If you're not a predator, you have very little to worry about."

The #MeToo movement actually presents an opportunity for men and women to learn how to work together in a mutually respectful way, says Melinda Weider, director of the Reciprocal Mentoring Lab consulting company in Seattle.

'Millennials are going to be running the company someday. If we're not listening to them and learning from them, we're going to lose them.'
Todd Sachse

The company's program (which is based on Smith and Johnson's research) pairs high-potential female employees with upper-level male executives who are at or slightly above their level in the organization.

"It's a tangible solution to the problem of companies not having enough women in leadership roles," Weider says. "We approach it with a learning lens where men and women learn how to work together as equals."

Smith and Johnson emphasize the importance of using reciprocal mentoring with high-potential female employees because it's more likely to lead to greater gender equality in the workplace.

"There's an easy business case for reciprocal cross-gender mentoring for high-potential women," Johnson says. "It builds leadership skills in both directions. For him, it builds empathy, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. For her, it's an opportunity to gain recognition, visibility, and access to information and networks. It's a way to ensure that high-potential women aren't falling through the cracks."

Diversity and Inclusivity

With more women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities in the workforce, organizations sometimes find it challenging to find ways to make the most of their strengths.

Some corporate programs match employees from these different backgrounds with senior executives who can help them advance in their careers. For employees who feel marginalized, it can be a powerful tool to build trust and loyalty.

The mentoring program at Eli Lilly and Company, a global pharmaceutical corporation headquartered in Indianapolis, was launched in 2015 by the company's LGBT Employee Resource Group. The voluntary program matches LGBT employees with senior leaders in order to influence and educate the leaders about this employee group.

SHRM's Tony Lee is joined by Arlene Hirsch, a recognized expert in career psychology and the proprietor of a Chicago-based career and psychological counseling firm. Tony and Arlene discuss what reverse mentoring is, how reverse mentoring fosters inter-generational connections, reverse mentoring's importance for managing a diverse workforce and reverse mentoring in the #MeToo era.

Please subscribe to All Things Work on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or wherever you listen to podcasts. Check out SHRM.org/podcasts to listen on your desktop. And be sure to rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts or on your podcatcher of choice. 

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Pam Elmore, director of the customer experience learning center, was "pleasantly surprised" to discover that her mentee, Wei Li Shou, was serious about learning and growing from their conversations.

"The trust that he's investing as a leader to try to learn so he can grow and influence and change the culture has really been a huge value to me," she says in an Eli Lilly video on reverse mentoring. And she adds that she finds it affirming that her company cares about the well-being of its LGBT employees.

Shou, the VP of sales and operations for Lilly USA, found their relationship transformative. One of his biggest responsibilities as a leader is to create environments in which people feel that they can succeed.

"This kind of reverse mentoring situation … allows you to really understand [and] get comfortable so you connect with everybody in your organization and then really create that environment where people feel like they can achieve and bring their whole self to work and just be happy with what they do," Shou says.

Promoting Innovation

Employees from diverse backgrounds often bring fresh ideas and perspectives that foster innovation. Because younger workers are generally tech-savvy, some of their most valuable contributions revolve around the use of technology and social media.

Spencer Osborn, worldwide managing director at Ogilvy & Mather, an international advertising agency in New York City, credits his Millennial mentors with teaching him how to jazz up his Twitter posts (which had a reputation for being boring) and modernize his music playlists, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In addition to keeping him abreast of trends in the fast-moving business of advertising, Osborn says, the program has helped boost morale and retention at the agency because the junior mentors feel like their voices are being heard.

Romaine Seguin, president of Global Freight Forwarding at UPS, recalled a time when the company was having a hard time training delivery assistants to use tablets, according to Mississauga.com, a Canadian news site. Her Millennial mentor convinced her to eliminate the tablets and train the assistants on cellphones instead. Mentoring can also evolve organically as the result of informal relationships and conversations.

"It doesn't have to be a formal program," Chaudhuri says. "It can be a mindset."

Perhaps one of the greatest advantages to nontraditional mentoring is the way that it can transform a hierarchical culture into a more inclusive and collaborative environment where everyone's input is valued and where everyone can make an impact.

Arlene S. Hirsch is a career counselor and author with a private practice in Chicago.

Originally posted on https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/all-things-work/Pages/knowledge-is-best-shared.aspx

When Men Mentor Women

David Smith, associate professor of sociology at the U.S. Naval War College, and Brad Johnson, professor of psychology at the United States Naval Academy, argue that it is vital for more men to mentor women in the workplace. In the post-#MeToo world, some men have shied away from cross-gender relationships at work. But Smith and Johnson say these relationships offer big gains to mentees, mentors, and organizations. They offer their advice on how men can be thoughtful allies to the women they work with. They are the authors of Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women.


SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: Welcome to the HBR IdeaCast from Harvard Business Review, I’m Sarah Green Carmichael.

Over the past year, the MeToo movement has cost powerful men their jobs in industries like media, entertainment, and politics. Now, we’re starting to see a backlash against that movement, especially in male-dominated industries.

Our guests today have both worked in a very male-dominated industry – the military.

DAVID SMITH: Our own experiences came into play here in watching how women, in particular in the military, experienced the integration and certainly some of the inequities that go on in their own lives and careers. And one of the things that stuck out to us – and we find it as well in lots of organizations today across our society – is that there are lots of structural things put in place when it comes to gender in the workplace, but often we don’t talk to men about how those relationships should be managed, what they should look like. And we felt that it was really important that we write something to engage men in particular about what this should look like and how we can do this. That gender inequities are not a women’s issue; that this is something that really we reframe as a leadership issue.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: That’s David Smith. He’s an associate professor of sociology at the U.S. Naval War College. We’re also joined by Brad Johnson, a professor of psychology at the United States Naval Academy.

They are the authors of the book “Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women.”

Brad and Dave, thank you for joining us.

BRAD JOHNSON: Thanks Sarah, good to be here.

DAVID SMITH: Thanks for having us here.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: I have heard sort of comments from friends of mine who work in male-dominated industries that at their organizations, there is a real drive to sort of quietly have more women just mentor women – like, let’s not make the guys do this. Let’s just have all the women kind of report to other women or be mentored by other women. Why does that not work? Why is it so important to have men mentoring women?

DAVID SMITH: Well, part of it’s just a plain numbers game and certainly as you find more traditionally male-dominated organizations and professions [and] industries out there today, the numbers just don’t support that. And in places like the military and tech and STEM and finance, you’re going to find there just aren’t as many women around, especially senior women – as you go up in the ranks – to mentor the junior women coming in.

The other, I think more obvious answer as well is that men tend to be the stakeholders – the power holders – in the organizations because they’re in the positions of leadership where they can make a difference. And so having women, again, there may be enough women to mentor other women there, but they may not be in the same positions of power to offer the same opportunities that these other men can do.

BRAD JOHNSON: Yeah. And I would also just add that guys need to be aware that when women are mentored by men – especially in traditionally male organizations – they tend to make more money; they get more promotions; they have clearly tangible career outcomes that are often better. And is this because guys are better mentors? No. It’s just simply as Dave said, because they have different kinds of positions and more power.

I also just want to note that when a guy stands up and publicly promotes and sponsors a woman, we find research showing that his end-of-year evaluations actually go up. When a woman is a public sponsor for a junior woman, her evals are more likely to suffer. You know, she’s viewed as showing favoritism; he’s viewed as a champion for diversity. So there’s even some inequity there, but all the more reason men have got to be willing to engage here.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: That kind of statistic really makes my head explode, yeah. So let’s shift gears now – maybe talk a little bit about how men can do this. How can they do a good job? What are some of the constructive steps that men can take to start being better mentors to women?

DAVID SMITH: You know we had the great opportunity when we wrote “Athena Rising” to interview successful, powerful women across every industry and profession. And the number one skill that every woman mentioned was that their male mentors were great listeners. We delved down a little deeper into that, “What do you mean by they’re great listeners?” Well, they listen with the intent to learn, like they have something to learn from me, that they don’t have all the answers, that they’re not making assumptions that because I’m a woman I must need, want… whatever. Fill in the blank there for them. Listening to understand, right? Listening with a purpose as opposed to thinking about what it is I’m going to tell you next.

BRAD JOHNSON: A couple others that really stood out. The whole issue of affirmation: That, you know, in many environments especially that are mostly male-centric, women get messages that they don’t really fit, they don’t belong; that they’re unicorns. And try and counteract it, you know, say, affirming things. Say, “You know, man, we were so smart to hire you.” Or, “That was terrific what you said in the meeting.”

I just need to go out of the way to make sure that I’m pushing back on that imposter messaging she’s getting. And then there’s been a lot of discussion in the literature this last year about the fact that women might get, you know, mentoring, but they don’t get enough sponsorship. And so part of the messaging we got from the women we interviewed was, hey, if you really want to mentor me, you need to be my networker. You need to open doors. You need to introduce me to people.

One of the people that shared a terrific story about this, when we interviewed her was Sheryl Sandberg and she said my first mentor out of college was Secretary of the Treasury, and everywhere we went he would introduce me to people on the international scale and say, “This is Sheryl Sandberg. She’s a rock star. She was number one in economics at Harvard. I couldn’t do this without her.” And after the third or fourth time, Cheryl pulled him aside and said, “Hey, Larry stop. That’s embarrassing.” And he said, “Sheryl, this is how it begins. This is sponsorship. This is how things take off for you and you need to become more comfortable with me doing this.” So the sponsorship piece is important. If you really want to be a mentor, for anybody but especially a woman, you know ask yourself, are you talking about her when she’s not even in the room? Are you her raving fan? And I think guys need to pay attention to that.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: You wrote an article for Hbr.org where you talked about the importance of mentors challenging their mentees – really pushing them out of their comfort zone and not going easy on them just because they do have that close, trusting relationship. What does that look like when it’s working well?

DAVID SMITH: Well, that’s a great point and something that’s important in all mentoring relationships, but in particular there’s a gendered aspect that we find we have to talk to men about in terms of how do we view and perceive our female mentees. And a lot of men – in the same ways it’s challenging to give direct critical feedback to women. Men might be thinking that, “Oh, I might hurt her feelings or might make her uncomfortable, and God forbid I make her emotional or cry.” And men do have this thing about tears. And we talked to quite a bit about tears and how to overcome that.

But I think that the challenge piece is really important because it does take, in many cases, getting your mentee in a situation where they are uncomfortable, right? This is were the elements and the area of growth begins. And being able to understand your mentee well enough that you know where those areas of growth are and you can put them in those. Right, and that’s what good mentors do: they open the doors, they find the opportunities, they find those stretch challenges in jobs that help the mentee to grow, and making sure that we do the same for our female mentees that we do for our male mentees out there.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: It’s funny to hear what female tears may feel like to a guy, since of course I have occasionally been the woman who has cried in a situation like that and I can sort of see the panic flit across the face of the older guy sort of giving me the advice that’s hard to hear. Do you see a lot of sort of generational differences on some of this stuff? You know, are the younger male mentors you’ve talked to doing different things than some of the older ones?

BRAD JOHNSON: I think that there is a generational difference. I think that you know it really depends on the individual male, but I think men of a certain generation, older men, can be a bit more reluctant and part of it has to do with, again, something that’s got a flavor of benign sexism. You heard it from Mike Pence, you know, a couple of years ago now where he said, you know, I’d never have a meal, a lunch with a woman who’s not my wife. There can just be that generational kind of segregating the sexes that feels appropriate, but it really undermines a women in terms of their opportunities if senior men are not willing to engage.

Now I will say not clearly, not all older men have that hang up and you do find a lot of guys who are known for being terrific allies.

DAVID SMITH: You know, I think one of the other things that – the differences in generations between younger men and older men is some of the way that we socialize our boys today. I think about the way we socialize our kids versus the way that I was socialized when I grew up. And certainly I think boys have different scripts today – social scripts to follow – if you think about, how interacting with a woman at work might be a social script that, I can say that, you know, probably the older generations didn’t have as many of those. They had to learn those once they left home.

And so for some of them, if they don’t have that script, they don’t know what it means to interact with a woman at work in a way that they’ve been taught, is they get kind of anxious about it. Right? And so one of the things we know again about anxiety is that we’re going to avoid it, right? Because we want to relieve that stress.

Or the other thing is they make fall back on a more – understanding of a social script that they do know and that might look like the, for example, the father-daughter one that we hear with older men in particular. And again, that’s a social script that I think a lot of people find to be very positive. I mean, I have a daughter, I think we have a great relationship. But it’s probably not appropriate in the workplace in a lot of ways. And then certainly we find in a lot of very traditional male professions out there where the chivalrous perspective comes into play as well – more of the benevolent sexism – and that’s kind of the knight in shining armor who’s there to rescue women. And again, women don’t need to be rescued in the workplace. That’s disempowering; it’s not giving the same opportunities as men to grow and develop.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: As I understand it – and you guys can tell me if I’m, if there needs to be more nuance here – but hostile sexism is kind of the “Make me a sandwich” and worse, you know, how we think of sexism when we think of it. But benevolent sexism when you compare that to chivalry, that might confuse people a little bit. So how do you define that term?

DAVID SMITH: Well, benevolent sexism, again, it sounds and appears to be very positive in how we approach the interaction between men and women. But in effect what it’s doing is it’s separating or denying or in other words, to put a woman up on a pedestal, right? To treat her in a way that’s keeping her from the same options and opportunities that we’re doing for men, right, is effectively doing the same thing as hostile sexism, where we’re separating and we’re discriminating on the basis of sex.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: Like, I’m not going to give her this assignment because it requires a lot of late nights and you know, she has kids at home and that kind of thing. But then she doesn’t get the assignment.

DAVID SMITH: Absolutely. Yeah. Instead of asking her.

BRAD JOHNSON: It undermines her.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: Are there things like that where the male mentors you work with have been kind of socialized to act a certain way and maybe in the process of mentoring a woman, they’re now realizing that that is not always the best way to be? Or it’s kind of expanding their sense of what they can do?

BRAD JOHNSON: Yeah. You know, the way the way guys are with each other occasionally, you know, all the bro humor, you know, you got leave that outside. That just doesn’t help. The competitive instinct – you know, a lot of guys when they get together, even mentor-mentee, you can see the competitiveness, you know, the bragging and all of that stuff. And again, not helpful and women will tell you, I don’t appreciate that, it doesn’t help me at all.

And then the whole location issue, the where – where do we meet, where do we get together? You know, if you’re a guy who tends to do all his mentoring in the evening over dinner and drinks, you’re probably not going to be mentoring many women. Women tell us: I’m just not comfortable with that. I don’t want gossip to start. I don’t want people to think that I’m sleeping my way to the top – and that’s totally not the case, but I don’t want the gossip to begin.

So guys got to think about this – create a level playing field. There was a vice president of Goldman Sachs who had a wonderful policy about this. He had a breakfast/lunch-only policy for mentoring. So he’d have his assistant only book is mentoring meetings over breakfast and lunch at a cafe. He found within just a few years he was mentoring sort of equally men and women and that was a big change for him because women felt comfortable with that.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: I’m wondering now, we’ve talked about some things to do and some things to avoid and I’m a little worried that the men listening might be starting to think: this is all so much work. I don’t want to walk on eggshells all the time. Maybe I will just avoid this after all. What do you say to guys who were like, “Gosh, there’s a lot of rules here.”

BRAD JOHNSON: Yeah. So I think over the last year or two, Dave and I have actually grown a little more impatient with those guys. There are different reasons men may avoid women right now. I think there are some guys who are using Me Too as an excuse just to stay on the sidelines and not engage. You know, honestly, they may not be a great loss when it comes to the fight for more equity.

So, you know, if you’re a guy who’s anxious and you’re worried about engaging: what will people say, will there be gossip? Will she misperceive what I’m saying? The evidence is really clear: if you have anxiety, there’s only one treatment for that, that’s exposure. So you’ve got to lean in, you have to have more coffees and more lunches and more conversations with women and do it publicly. If that’s your brand, if that’s who you are in the workplace, people don’t talk about that guy. He is just known for being a great collaborator, equally for men and women. And that’s just not a guy who has to have anxiety.

DAVID SMITH: I think one other thing that we often remind men, because I think it’s important that they understand there is a benefit for themselves, right? So we obviously know a lot of the advantages that Brad mentioned earlier about what women get out of great mentoring. The organization certainly wins because we’re keeping talented people around and we’re developing them into great leaders. But men, there’s something in it for them to, as men mentoring women or being mentored by women, we find that again, they’re getting increased access to information across the organization that they otherwise wouldn’t have. They’re getting this more diverse network. And I think most importantly we see the increase in the interpersonal skills and empathy and EQ out there that translates beyond the workplace into the home. If men want to be more successful in the workplace and at home, right, this is a great opportunity for them. Yes, there’s a little bit of work. Nothing to be scared of though. It’s good for them as well.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: As we’ve been talking about all of this, I realized that we’ve kind of been talking about men and women as these sort of big groups. There’s obviously a lot of variation within each of those groups. How do you give advice on this without kind of being too stereotypical either about what men are like or about what women are like?

DAVID SMITH: I think that’s a great Point. And as you think about in particular, as we’re grouping women into this broader entity out there, that women of color have very different experiences. And I think that’s important. Again, the basics of mentoring I think that we’ve, we’ve been talking about work the same way: understanding people’s individual differences, understanding how their experiences and challenges are very different in the workplace.

I think as mentors and as leaders in our organization, we’re going to learn that much more about their experiences. And you know, race is just one, right? There are many elements of diversity that we can learn from as we think about mentoring people who don’t look like us broadly out there. And encouraging us to take a moment to look at our own network of, again, the people that we mentor as well as who I’m being mentored by. I think both are just as important as you think about who you’re learning from, right? Whether from more senior experience or your mentee more junior experience, that you need to have a very diverse network of people so you can, you’re getting these different perspectives. You’re getting different information, you’re making yourself more effective both as a mentor and as a leader in your organization.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: So what about – you’ve sort of talked about the importance of being public about your mentorship and intervening in public as needed, but also not rescuing women. If you see – if there’s another guy in your office who’s not very enlightened on this stuff and he’s making inappropriate comments or in other ways kind of being you know, a little bit backwards on some of this stuff. How do you suggest approaching other guys about their approaches to this issue?

DAVID SMITH: Yeah, that’s a great point. And I think that there’s a few ways to think about it. Obviously it’s situationally dependent, but one of the things that we know is that if in the moment, right, if we react, we can correct. W e can react to something that happens and it’s really important because – especially if you’re in a situation where there’s other people watching, right, and other people listening. Whether that’s other men, it’s other women, you’re affecting what they’re thinking and their perceptions about what’s going on there.

And one of the things that we know is that men have a higher expectation or level of acceptance of sexism. They think that everybody else around them – their peers – have this really high level of acceptance of sexism and sexist behavior, for example, and that that’s why they’re not going to say anything. They’re not going to intervene in this case. The reality is that most men don’t. Most men are just as offended or put off by it as the rest of the women there, of course, as well.

The other side of that is – and this kind of behavior, what we call good ally behavior – and this goes not just for men and women, right, for allies of all sorts in the workplace – is that it helps the non-dominant group, right? In this case, we’re talking about women in the workplace, that it helps them to understand that they have higher, you know, they can have the confidence next time to speak up, right? When they see something like this happen, they don’t feel as much self-shame – in other words, that I brought this on upon myself in some way. And have more confidence and self-esteem in themselves. So it does affect how they feel in the moment as well as their ability to intervene or interact in the next opportunity.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: So I’m wondering if people want to get started, what is the appropriate way to begin? Because you mentioned Sheryl Sandberg earlier. She has said, you know, you don’t just go around asking people to mentor you. That’s not how it works. But, so then if you’re a mentor, I mean presumably you don’t also wander around saying like, “Hello, I would like to mentor you.” So how do you actually get a relationship relationship like this off the ground?

DAVID SMITH: It always sounds better when Brad says it. How you say it, Brad?

BRAD JOHNSON: Yeah. So Dave and I actually do this exercise in workshops where we have men and women at tables and have them practice: How would you initiate, you know, a mentoring conversation? How would that look? Because a lot of guys are anxious about this. I see this talented junior woman, she’s a rock star, but I’m just, I don’t know how to even let her know I think that about her. I don’t want it to be misperceived.

And so in the role plays you’ll have some, you know, well-meaning, but you know, maybe unskilled men just kind of look at this person out of the blue and say, “I’d like to mentor you.” And it’s creepy and it’s weird and you know, she doesn’t know what you mean by that. There’s no context.

So we tell guys, be specific, say, “Hey, I saw you do this at that meeting” or “I watched how you put together this project and that was amazing. I’d be willing to chat with you anytime, you know, I’d love to hear where you’d like to go and if I can be helpful.” You know, so you offer and you know, I think very often she’s likely to take you up on that and have a conversation. Keep it low key; don’t require anything of her. Just make you know, make it clear that you think she’s terrific and has done something very specific that you’ve been noticing and then let her follow up with you.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: Well, thank you both. This has been very enlightening for me and I appreciate the time.

BRAD JOHNSON: Yeah, our pleasure, Sarah.

DAVID SMITH: Thanks so much for having us.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: That was Brad Johnson, professor of psychology at the United States Naval Academy, and David Smith, associate professor of sociology at the U.S. Naval War College. They are the co-authors of the book “Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women.”

This episode was produced by Mary Dooe and Curt Nickisch. We got technical and production help from Rob Eckhardt. Adam Buchholz is our audio product manager.

Thanks for listening to the HBR IdeaCast. I’m Sarah Green Carmichael.

Audio and original post can be found on https://hbr.org/ideacast/2018/10/when-men-mentor-women

A man’s guide to mentoring women at work

By Anne Fisher

Only 4.6% of all CEOs in companies in the S&P 500 are female, according to a 2015 study by Catalyst, a not-profit research organization dedicated to bolstering diversity in the workplace.

Why aren’t there more female senior executives?

One explanation, according to W. Brad Johnson, is that talented women usually don’t get the kind of individual career guidance and support that helps their male counterparts rise. A psychology professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who has spent more than two decades studying mentoring, Johnson is co-author of Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women, a down-to-earth handbook aimed at tackling, and dispelling, the anxiety that often makes men hesitate to take on a female mentee.

We recently talked with Johnson about his research and why everyone wins when more men mentor women.

Q.  Why should men mentor women? What’s in it for them?

A. Probably the biggest reason is all the research showing that more gender-inclusive leadership correlates directly with higher profits. Any organization that excludes 50% or more of its best talent from reaching upper management is doomed. It’s just not going to be competitive. And in many companies, there are so few women at the highest levels, if there are any at all, that it isn’t realistic to expect them to be able to mentor all the female employees who could benefit. So men really have to step into that gap, or talented women will keep getting left behind.

Q.  You say not enough men are mentoring women right now. Why do you think that is?

A.  Some do, of course. But others have an almost phobic reaction to the idea, a palpable anxiety about it. It can be simply fear of the unknown, or fear of getting it wrong and saying or doing something sexist or offensive, or worry that “people will start talking.”

There are also some men who didn’t have sisters or female friends growing up and they just don’t know how to have close relationships with women that aren’t sexual. And some men are afraid of what their wives or girlfriends will think—which really says more about those personal relationships than anything else, but it can be a very real concern.

Q.  Another pitfall you talk about in the book is some men’s habit of dealing with women by falling back on “manscripts”—that is, archetypal patterns of behavior like the protective father, the chivalrous knight, and so on—which can be counterproductive. How can male mentors avoid that?

A.  There are no easy fixes, because these scripts go way back, and they usually operate below someone’s conscious awareness.  So self-awareness is the first step. Ask a trusted colleague for feedback, or ask your mentee directly. At the Naval Academy, I mentor young people ages 18 to 22, including some women, and I know I have a tendency to start doing the father-daughter thing—being too protective, for instance. Sometimes I just come right out and say to them, “If I start doing that, let me know, and I’ll knock it off.”

Q. Let’s say I’m a woman looking for my next job. Is it OK to ask job interviewers about how mentoring works at the company?

A. Absolutely, and male job hunters should ask, too. I’d even ask about the results—for example, how many people have been promoted after having worked with a mentor.

If I were a woman, I’d ask to meet other women who have had mentors there, and how it worked out for them. Interviewers are likely to be impressed that you’re thinking about your career development long-term.

If not—especially if you ask about gender inclusiveness and whether mentoring cuts across gender lines—and you get shut down or dismissed, that tells you a lot about what your future in that organization would be like.

Originally posted in https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/mans-guide-mentoring-women-1116

Give Men the Green Light to Mentor Women

Written by W. Brad Johnson & David Smith

When it comes to the status of women in the workplace, there is good news and not-so-good news. The good news first: Women are entering the workplace in increasing numbers – including more than half of management positions across organizations and including traditionally male professions. Moreover, businesses and organizations with more women in the leadership suite are more effective, balanced and competitive. The not-so-good-news? Many organizations continue to struggle when it comes to retaining and promoting the talented women they work so hard to recruit and train.

One of the key factors to dialing down the attrition spigot and retaining talented personnel of either gender is access to high-quality mentoring, particularly in the earliest moments of one’s career. Volumes of research leave little doubt that well-mentored employees are more loyal, satisfied, professionally committed and ultimately successful in their careers. Although critical in the career trajectories of both genders, mentorship proves to be even more crucial for women, particularly in male-dominated professions. In our study of high-ranking women across a wide range of professions, we discovered a striking and recurring theme: the profound importance of influential people who recognized their talent early, praised their accomplishments and then championed their promotion within the organization.

Here is the problem: Although mentorship is particularly vital for women, women report far more difficulty securing mentors than their male counterparts. Sometimes, the problem is linked to a competitive culture and out-and-out disdain for collegiality, including programs focused on developing future leaders. Sure, some organizations offer a few prospective female mentors in the upper echelons of management and leadership. But far more often, the real problem underlying lower rates of mentoring for women has to do with men. For a variety of reasons, senior men are simply missing in action when it comes to initiating and maintaining strong developmental relationships with junior women. For myriad reasons, some men are just plain reluctant to mentor women at work.

There are several reasons men don’t step in to pull up and push forward promising junior women. First, some men cling to the outdated myth that only women can mentor other women. Ultimately a copout, such thinking paints women as an alien species – far too mysterious or complex for a man to decipher and engage in a helping relationship.

Second, some men are anxious about engaging in close relationships with women. These men can experience an anxiety-provoking approach-avoidance quandary with women at work. On one hand, they want to be helpful and enjoy closeness in relationships with female colleagues. On the other hand, they react with anxiety and then avoidance if any feelings of attraction enter the equation. For these men, a caring and companionate, but nonsexual, relationship with a woman may be a novelty.

A third obstacle to male-female mentorships is the – often unconscious – deployment of old scripts for interacting with women. Most often, men call up scripts for familiar roles such as father/daughter, son/mother, or knight/damsel-in-distress. Although familiar and comfortable, these roles can obviously undermine a healthy adult mentorship at work, often disempowering women and ultimately undermining their sense of autonomy and competence. Similarly, some men harbor implicit gender stereotypes that paint women as nice, caring and nurturing, but simply not cut out for the demands of leadership.

Finally, there are more than a few men who become anxious about perceptions in the workplace. For these men, the specter of gossip and sideways glances when they endeavor to help a junior woman at work is just not worth the risk.

What’s the solution? Organizations of all stripes have to send men a different set of messages – including performance expectations – about mentoring both men and women well and often. In a phrase, we have to give men the green light to mentor talented women around them.

How can this happen? First, senior men need to mentor women transparently and frequently. Second, their performance as an inclusive mentor and talent developer must be included in routine performance evaluations. Third, men need preparation (training) to soar in the mentor role. Like anything else, competence in the mentor role is iterative and evolving. Men love tools, so give them a mentorship tool-box that includes an opportunity to understand the experiences of women at work. Finally, loudly and publicly reinforce men who mentor women well.

Originally posted on http://www.trainingindustry.com/leadership/articles/give-men-the-green-light-to-mentor-women.aspx


Stop Trying To Fix Women. Mentor Them Instead

How Gender Humility Helps

By David Smith & W. Brad Johnson. 

For far too long, businesses (men) have tried to solve workplace gender bias, inequality, and poor recruitment and retention of women by “fixing” women (i.e., employing varied but consistently fruitless efforts to shape them in men’s image). Strategies to press women into male molds persist despite good evidence that gender-diverse workplaces are more effective in bottom-line terms.

Unfortunately, such strategies are also visible when some men attempt to mentor women at work. Research on mentoring relationships in organizational settings reveals that gender-informed mentoring practices—mentoring that honors, even celebrates, the unique contributions of women to the workplace—often provide women with professional and personal benefits that can help level the playing field, enhance retention, and heighten the probability that women will ascend to leadership roles.
Here is the rub: men are not as likely to initiate a mentoring relationship with a woman and when they do, they often fall back on uniquely masculine “bro” mentoring strategies which often are less effective for women. Such “bro” strategies are ubiquitous to male relationships and tend to be based on competition, x-rated humor, backslaps, and a focus on tasks to the exclusion of all else. While they might work for many of the “dudes” down the hall, they may ultimately leave some women feeling misunderstood, further isolated, and forced to hide their genuine career ambitions and life priorities.
Men who mentor women well appreciate the barriers women face in achieving parity and being seriously considered for promotion to key leadership jobs. Excellent male mentors work to rein in their fixing and problem-solving tendencies. In Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women, we explore men’s professional relationships with women at work and how they can mentor in a gender-inclusive way. Rather than try to “fix” his mentee or mute her approach to work, a stellar male mentor learns to listen, appreciate, and then encourage and promote the women he mentors.
An excellent male mentor must first embody gender humility—the art of being self-aware, transparent, and humble about what you don’t know while demonstrating honest curiosity about a woman’s unique experience and current concerns. Our research with some of the most successful women across industries revealed a common theme in their career experiences—their male mentors consistently were able to meet these women where they were and worked to understand what each mentee needed to thrive in her career. If we can really listen to our mentees, then we start to understand how their experiences may have differed from our own. Only then can we begin to empathize with what could be a very different set of work experiences coming up through the ranks as a woman.
Why and how exactly could her experiences be all that different from the way we as men are perceived and compared at work?

  • She is much more likely to be perceived negatively for expressing certain emotions, such as anger or frustration, and might think twice about discussing her accomplishments (largely due to a “culture that mandates modesty” for women).
  • Because so many men aren’t bearing their fair share of the burden at home, she may experience greater demands outside of work than her male mentor and, therefore, greater tension about how to effectively balance career advancement with family life.
  • Her definition of career success may be quite different, with greater emphasis on intrinsically rewarding roles, self-development, and work–life effectiveness.
  • If she is a woman of color, she may have experienced double jeopardy in her life and career, working against both gender and race stereotypes. This is called intersectionality (here’s a primer for that).

You get the picture—her path to this point in her career and life is likely different in many ways from a man at the same company.
It may seem like a daunting challenge for some men to empathize with a female mentee’s unfamiliar life experiences. Similarly, it may be challenging for her to identify with a man as an important role model. We think men will find that employing a healthy dose of gender humility is helpful in cross-gender mentoring relationships. By maintaining a learning orientation with a mentee, mentors often find that they learn as much or more from their mentee as the mentee does from them.

Originally Posted on http://onthemarc.org/blogs/22/467#.WDhafKIrJE5


It Takes a Few Good Men

By W. Brad Johnson and Captain David Smith, U.S. Navy

In the battle for talent, it is imperative that men do their part in mentoring women.

Recruiting, developing, and retaining talent must be an inclusive process. Men and women must have an equal shot at the top rungs of leadership. When it comes to gender, those organizations and professions that exclude or marginalize 50 percent of the workforce—including half of those people at the top of the curve on intellect and creativity—are doomed. Companies and organizations that include women, particularly in key leadership positions, are more effective, balanced, and geared for long-term success. Welcoming and promoting women increasingly is key to organizational survival. Research on bottom-line, dollars-and-cents outcomes reveals that gender diversity at all pay grades is crucial to efficiency, productivity, ingenuity, and mission success. 1

So why is the military struggling mightily to attract, retain, and promote women? Although repeal of the ground-combat exclusion policy and the notional opening of all combat communities to women constitutes a welcome policy shift, retention of women—especially in combat specialties—remains a vexing challenge for the Navy and Marine Corps. At present, women elect to remain in the Navy beyond their initial commitment at less than half the rate for men. And even when women do persist for 5–10 years, they leave the military profession at much higher rates than their male counterparts. Although the most popular explanation for women’s lower retention—adverse impact of a Navy career on family—is widespread, the fact is that men exiting the military often give the same explanation. 2 The truth is more complex and insidious. Face it; the response of some male-only combat specialties to the gender exclusion repeal has been frosty at best.

It is difficult enough for anyone to perform well in a combat-arms role without the stress of a toxic social environment. 3 The reality is that when women do get in the door in a traditionally male-only profession, they face deliberate exclusion or a possibly more painful disregard fueled by stereotypes, hyper-competitive masculine traditions, and sometimes out-and-out hostility toward women in the workplace. In part, this helps explain why the pipelines for women in the military, like those for women in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines at most universities, have been chronically leaky. 4

Among the most salient factors predicting retention and persistence of women in any profession is the presence of credible and inspiring role models—often senior women. For instance, the presence of female role models in career-relevant areas turns out to be key in inspiring women to enter and persist in traditionally male STEM careers. 5 The absence of credible female role models can weaken women’s self-efficacy, professional identity, and sense of belonging in a career field. 6

Of course, the rub here is the absence of senior women in many military specialties, particularly combat arms. If senior women are not yet present at senior ranks, can guys step in and successfully take up the slack? On this question there is reason to take heart. A recent study at the U.S. Naval Academy revealed that among female midshipmen, gender of the role model was simply not significant, as long as they had someone who took the time to notice and encouraged them. 7 This finding dovetails with evidence across organizations. Women report positive career aspirations when they have access to inspiring and caring role models and mentors, regardless of that person’s gender. 8

Mentorship of Women Is Key to Success

We have interviewed several highly accomplished and high-ranking women, in both the military and other fields. Among the most persistent themes in their stories was the profound importance of influential people who recognized their talent early, praised their accomplishments, and then championed their cause within the organization. In many cases, women who made it to the top in male-dominated organizations identified at least one—often several—key male mentors.

Mentors invest in the career progression and professional/personal development of mentees, often fulfilling essential roles such as challenge, counsel, guidance, sponsorship, support, affirmation, and advocacy. The best mentors are intentional and thoughtful about their role; they invest the time necessary to understand mentees’ unique developmental needs. 9 Four decades of research results leave no doubt that junior members of any profession fortunate enough to have strong mentoring accrue a number of consistent benefits in comparison to those without a mentor. These include greater retention, work satisfaction, professional competence, career motivation, organizational commitment, and ultimately, career success and recognition. 10 These findings extend to military settings where having a mentor tends to bolster one’s career, self-confidence, and willingness to mentor others in turn. 11

The military’s career paths and promotion system, often referred to as “up or out,” make it even more important that junior members of the profession receive excellent mentoring at the earliest stages of their careers. A recent study of senior leadership-school participants (enlisted and officer) at the Naval War College revealed that 91 percent had had at least one very significant mentor—with an average of 3.5 key mentors—in their naval careers. 12 And yes, 95 percent of those mentors were men.

Although mentorship appears even more critical to the success of women—especially in traditionally male-dominated professions—women consistently report a tougher time securing mentors. 13 Too often, men default to the hope that women can mentor women. But in many male-centric domains senior women are nowhere in sight at upper ranks. Even when they are, they live life in a spotlight, getting extra scrutiny at every turn, sometimes creating reluctance to mentor other women. Truth be told, the math does not work. With men occupying the lion’s share of leadership and supervisory positions, junior women will get mentored only if men step up, show up, and take the lead.

Some Men Are Reluctant to Mentor Women

If gender integration is a priority for the Navy and Marine Corps, if mentoring matters for women when it comes to retention, inclusion, and career success, if junior women have few senior women to turn to, and if the evidence shows that men can mentor women effectively, then why are women too often going without the kind of early career mentoring relationships that could persuade them to stay in the service and soar? A big part of the problem is what we call the reluctant male syndrome. Some men are reticent, timid, even phobic about entering into potentially game-changing developmental relationships with women at work. Reluctant men avoid women at work for a variety of reasons, mostly rooted in gender stereotypes or flat-out anxiety. Here are some of the major contributors to the syndrome:

• Persistent Gender Bias: At times, men’s unconsciously socialized perceptions about women leave them in a confusing bind. Often, they have been taught to perceive women as “nice,” compassionate, nurturing, and caring. Although this sounds positive, such perceptions can make it difficult or impossible to simultaneously view women as get-up, take-charge, and move-out leaders. These men cannot quite envision a woman leading in a combat specialty. As a result, they fail to provide women with the mentorship that could help them achieve that end. These men tend to see assertive and action-oriented males as excellent leaders while viewing similarly oriented women as abrasive, cold-hearted, and bossy.

• Discomfort with Nonsexual Intimate Relationships: Although loath to admit it, some men are uncertain about how to have close, connected, collegial relationships with a woman at work without enacting—or at least imagining—a romantic or sexual component. Sometimes these men have little experience with strong, intimate cross-sex friendships. And sometimes they do not know how to express fondness and closeness in a mentorship without trying to consummate the relationship sexually.

Feeling anxiety about their attraction to a mentee or feelings of intimacy, they distance themselves from the very women they are trying to mentor and promote. Of course, getting the cold-shoulder from a previously helpful male mentor can leave a woman feeling unworthy or somehow responsible for the sudden shift in his demeanor.

• “Manscripts” Get in the Way: Sometimes, the “scripts”—or gendered expectations about how men should treat women—get in the way. These are implicit messages about women transmitted to boys by their fathers, peers, and even the broader culture (e.g., girls are nice but weak; women are too thin-skinned to compete in the world of men; a woman needs a man to take care of her). When faced with women at work, men too often resort—sometimes unconsciously—to outdated and decidedly unhelpful relationship scripts such as chivalrous knight or protective father. But of course, trying to “protect” or “rescue” talented women can sabotage their opportunity to compete and prove themselves. Old manscripts can undermine a collegial mentorship and erode a woman’s credibility at work.

• Fear of Public Perceptions and Gossip: In one recent study of senior male executives (vice president and above), 64 percent acknowledged reluctance to be seen meeting alone with junior women. 14 A news article last year about women staffers on Capitol Hill reveals that they often are barred from ever being alone or—God forbid—ever being seen after hours with their male bosses for fear of rumors and bad publicity for the male legislators. 15 The truth is that some men are reluctant to mentor women for fear of social scrutiny. Sometimes, fear of rumors and gossip causes men to keep all junior women at arm’s length, effectively barring them from the sort of access their male peers take for granted and seriously diminishing the kind of frequent interaction that often leads to strong mentorship.

• Fear of Saying or Doing the Wrong Thing: In addition to worrying about what others might think, some men develop genuine anxiety about “slipping” and saying something that might be sexist or even harassing—or at least interpreted that way. Some worry their goodwill or interest will be misinterpreted as “coming on,” and frankly, some men worry they might indeed be doing just that. In response, they opt to ignore women, or at best create distant and sterile relationships with them.

• What Will My Spouse Think? Some men worry that, if their spouses or significant others discover they are working closely with someone of the opposite sex, jealousy and conflict will ensue at home. In our experience, this often has more to do with distrust and poor communication in a relationship. Of course, jealousy can be triggered or worsened when a man lacks transparency about whom he is mentoring or when he attempts to keep these relationships “secret” at work and on the homefront.

So what is the antidote for the reluctant male syndrome? The naval service desperately needs men to step up and deliberately and transparently mentor promising junior women in the same way they mentor men. Every warfare specialty and command needs a few good men to get the memo about the salience of good mentorship to real gender integration in the military. These are men who are all in, guys who understand that confident and effective mentors do not wait around for female rising stars to seek them out for career guidance. Too often, women have been socialized not to compete with men, to wait quietly until called. Naturally, in male-dominated environments the first and few women may feel like imposters; many will be unlikely to seek out potential mentors. The recent Naval War College study revealed that in 82 percent of cases, key mentorships got started because the mentor—usually a man—noticed a talented junior sailor or officer and took the lead in initiating a productive relationship. 16

We are not asking men to mentor women exclusively or to ignore talented junior men. Far from it. Men must simply open their eyes, recognize some of the talented women around them, and then get busy ensuring these women have equal access to the kinds of game-changing mentorships men commonly take for granted. Often, men fail to realize they are being mentored because it happens “organically” in masculine settings such as on the golf course or after working hours at the club.

Mentoring ‘Best Practices’

How can men overcome biases and anxieties about mentoring women? The secret is simple: frequent interaction and exposure to the opposite sex at work. More than 60 years ago, psychologist Gordon Allport discovered that prejudice is most easily and elegantly overcome by mere contact and exposure to a new group. 17 The more different gender groups can interact—particularly in the service of a common mission—the more comfortable and effective they will be in developing (mentoring) relationships with one another.

Positive mentoring starts with a healthy dose of self-awareness. Discovering our own biases and how we were socialized provides a better understanding of the values, beliefs, and social norms that affect our leadership and mentorship interactions with both men and women. For instance, if men are raised to treat women as delicate creatures, this script could inadvertently undermine a female mentee’s development. Similarly, men who believe a woman’s primary responsibility should be to her children and husband may struggle to provide women with effective career mentoring.

In addition to being introspective, excellent mentors seek to understand their mentees’ perspectives and diverse experiences. By the time a woman arrives in the Fleet, she likely has learned that when it comes to competence, she must consistently “prove it again,” whereas men more often are given a pass based on potential and previous accomplishments. Beyond proving their competence, women also may have to scale the “maternal wall”—being perceived as less committed to their careers just because they are married or because they have the potential to give birth. 18 Male mentors who approach their mentees with the intention of learning about their experiences will be more effective in guiding their mentees.

Excellent and deliberate mentorship of women will benefit female mentees and the inclusive organizations in which they work. But what is in it for men? Those who mentor women report a broadened and improved set of work and interpersonal skills. 19 Think of it as diversifying your leadership tool box. Not only does mentoring women expand skills that make men better leaders and mentors, but it also gives them a wider and more diverse network of relationships at work. Successful mentors who find themselves at the higher echelons of the organization also maintain a connection to the deckplates. Information is vital to a leader in today’s military, and a diverse network of talented mentees allows for more open lines of communication and the opportunity to learn. In the end, men who expand their mentoring relationships to include women are better for it. We predict they will be better sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers.

Fully integrating women? All it takes is a few good men.

1. Cedric Herring, “Does Diversity Pay? Race Gender, and the Business Case for Diversity,” American Sociological Review, vol. 74, no. 2 (April 2009), 208-224. Mady Wechsler Segal, CAPT David G. Smith, USN, David R. Segal, and LCDR Amy A. Canuso, USN, “The Role of Leadership and Peer Behaviors in the Performance and Well-Being of Women in Combat: Historical Perspectives, Unit Integration, and Family Issues,” Military Medicine, vol. 181, (January 2016), 28-33.

2. Navy Office of Women’s Policy (2012). Today’s women and tomorrow’s Navy, .

www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/organization/bupers/WomensPolicy/Document... .

3. Mady Wechsler Segal et al. “Leadership and Peer Behaviors.”

4. CAPT David G. Smith, USN, and Judith E. Rosenstein, “Gender and the Military Profession: Early Career Influences, Attitudes, and Intentions,” Armed Forces and Society, (January 2016) 1-20.

5. Smith and Rosenstein, “Gender and the Military Profession”; Sapna Cheryan, John Oliver Siy, Marissa Vichayapai, Benjamin Drury, and Saenam Kim, “Do Female and Male Role Models Who Embody STEM Stereotypes Hinder Women’s Anticipated Success in STEM?” Social Psychological and Personality Science, vol. 2, no. 6 (November 2011), 656-664.

6. Laura Smart Richman, Michelle VanDellen, and Wendy Wood, “How Women Cope: Being a Numerical Minority in a Male-Dominated Profession,” Journal of Social Issues, vol. 67, no. 3, (2011) 492-509.

7. Smith and Rosenstein, “Gender and the Military Profession.”

8. W. Brad Johnson and Charles Ridley, The Elements of Mentoring (New York,: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 88-99.

9. Johnson and Ridley. The Elements of Mentoring; W. Brad Johnson and Gene R. Anderson, “How to Make Mentoring Work,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 135, no. 4 (April 2009), 26-32.

10. Lillian Eby, Tammy Allen, Sarah Evans, Thomas Ng, and David DuBois, “Does Mentoring Matter? A Multidisciplinary Meta-Analysis Comparing Mentored and Non-Mentored Individuals,” Journal of Vocational Behavior, vol. 72 (2008) 254-267.

11. W. Brad Johnson and Gene R. Andersen, “Mentoring in the U.S. Navy: Experiences and Attitudes of Senior Navy Personnel,” Naval War College Review, vol. 68, no. 3 (Summer 2015), 76-90.

12. Johnson and Andersen. “Mentoring in the U.S. Navy,” 80.

13. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Kerrie Peraino, Laura Sherbin, and Karen Sumberg, “The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling.” Cambridge: Harvard Business Review (2010), 45.

14. Ibid.

15. Sarah Mimms, “Why Some Male Members of Congress Won’t Be Alone with Female Staffers,” Atlantic, 14 May 2015,www.nationaljournal.com/s/27043/why-some-male-members-congress-wont-be-a... .

16. Johnson and Andersen. “Mentoring in the U.S. Navy.”

17. Gordon Allport, The Nature of Prejudice (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1954), 58-59.

18. Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey, What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know (New York: NYU Press, 2014), 25-25, 128.

19. Kathryn Taafe McLearn, Diane Colasanto, and Cathy Schoen, Mentoring Makes a Difference: Findings from the Commonwealth Fund: 1998 Survey of Adults Mentoring Young People, 1998,www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/files/publications/fund-report/1998/jul... .

Originally posted in http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2016-09/it-takes-few-good-men