The research is clear. "When women are fully included in leadership," David Smith told me, "not in a token way but in a substantial manner, businesses do better and teams make better decisions."
Brad Johnson, PhD., and David Smith, PhD., are the authors of Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women. I spoke with both of them last week about the need for more senior male executives to mentor female professionals. Here's what stood out for me about what is useful for men to know.
You Benefit, Too
David explained, "There are benefits on both sides when men mentor women. Women get more raises, they advance faster, and they stay in the organization longer. That's not because men are better mentors, but because they have positions of influence and power. It's a numbers game. Men get increased access to information, they build a more diverse and expansive network, and they tend to increase their interpersonal skills."
You Can Shift Culture
Brad suggested that senior male executives should routinely bring up mentoring with their subordinates. They should express interest in it and ask, "Are you mentoring anyone?" This one habit alone, he said, could significantly cultivate a mentoring culture. Even better, he said, would be to ask yourself and those who work for you whether all the people you mentor look like you or not.
Traditionally, men have leaned toward mentoring men, which reinforces the current state of more men than women in leadership roles. To change this state, the pair say, men have to step up and deliberately broaden their mentoring activities.
When and When You Mentor Matters
Brad encouraged men to reach beyond what they have been doing. "You don't have to say 'I want to mentor you.' Instead, you could simply tell a younger professional, 'I was so impressed with what you did in the meeting today. If you ever want to have a conversation, please drop by my office.'"
One thing that can--but shouldn't--have a chilling effect on male executives mentoring female professionals is the #MeToo movement.
For example, Brad shared Sheryl Sandberg's story about a Goldman Sachs VP who realized that his firm was bringing in talented women and that he wasn't mentoring any of them. This executive became aware that his mentoring was mostly at drinks and dinner after work, and that women were often uncomfortable being seen in that setting. He switched his practices and started holding mentoring meetings over breakfast or lunch. Within a few years, he was mentoring men and women equally.
You Can Make a Significant Difference
David urges leaders to, "Make sure that you're spending time with your mentee getting to understand their career goals and dreams. Depending on where they are in their career, they may not even be really clear on those answers. One of your roles as a mentor may be to help them clarify. Brad and I often talk about this in terms of Michelangelo's sculpting work, where you don't necessarily understand or see what a work of art is going to be until it emerges from the conversation."
You get to that point, he says, "By reflecting that back to your mentee, and trying to get it just right without imposing your own expectations or assumptions about what it is that they must want or want to be. As you begin to understand what those career dreams and goals are, then you can begin to think about--based on your experience--who are the people to whom they need to be connected, what are the opportunities they need, and where are the stretch assignments they need?"
Women’s conferences and employee resource groups (ERGs) are increasingly inviting men to attend. By creating events aimed at men, they hope to include men in discussions around gender equity in the workplace, and make organizational diversity efforts more successful.
The evidence shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress — compared to only 30% of organizations where men are not engaged. But today, too many organizations still miss the mark on gender equity efforts by focusing gender initiatives solely on changing women — from the way they network to the way the lead. Individualistic approaches to solving gender inequities overlook systemic structural causes and reinforce the perception that these are women’s issues — effectively telling men they don’t need to be involved. Without the avid support of men, often the most powerful stakeholders in most large corporations, significant progress toward ending gender disparities is unlikely. What’s at stake? A study by McKinsey projects that in a “full potential” scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men, $28 trillion dollars (26%) would be added to the annual global GDP when compared to the current business-as-usual scenario.
But including men in diversity efforts is not as simple as inviting them to a gender-equity event. These efforts often reveal reluctance, if not palpable anxiety among targeted men. Sexism is a system, and while it’s a system that privileges men, it also polices male behavior. Understanding that is important to changing the system.
Challenges Facing Male Allies
We define male allies as members of an advantaged group committed to building relationships with women, expressing as little sexism in their own behavior as possible, understanding the social privilege conferred by their gender, and demonstrating active efforts to address gender inequities at work and in society. Debra Meyerson and Megan Tompkins refer to such men as tempered radicals — they are catalysts for change, challenging organizational structures that disadvantage women while remaining committed to the success of the organization.
While some research has shown that white men face no penalty for promoting diversity, other studies suggest that there can be a cost to acting as an ally.
First, there’s the dreaded wimp penalty. New research reveals that men perceived as less self-promoting and more collaborative and power-sharing are evaluated by both men and women as less competent (and, not incidentally, less masculine). Egalitarian men can feel the backlash effects of stigma-by-association — perceived as being similar to women by advocating for them. This is more likely in organizations where people endorse a zero-sum perspective on gender equality. Backlash against male allies is a real possibility.
Self-professed male allies can also face criticism from the women they try to ally with. As two men who write and speak about cross-gender allyship and mentorship, we’ve noticed occasional backlash from women when dudes show up at women’s events. At one recent conference for women in technology, a Bingo card was circulated by women in the audience just before a panel composed of men on the topic of male allyship. The — seemingly cynical — objective? To identify as many worn-out clichés and defensive phrases men often utter in these contexts as possible. Some eye-rolling favorites included: “I’m a feminist; We’re all in this together; My mother taught me to respect women; and, I saw the light after the birth of my daughter!”
Understandably, many women are initially skeptical about efforts to include men in women’s conferences and ERGs. First, these gatherings have historically offered women a sense of community and camaraderie, a safe space for sharing experiences and formulating strategies for achieving equality in the workplace. This relational community is inestimably important and men need to respect it. Second, sub-tracks and breakout sessions for men at women’s events are often given labels such as Manbassador or Male Champion, terrific for drawing men in, but in truth, rather grandiose to the ears of women who may sigh and ask, “Really dude? We have to call you a champion just to get you to be fair, respectful, and inclusive?”
This Pedestal Effect in which men are given special treatment and shout outs for even small acts of gender equality is understandably grating for women who for years have done the emotional labor and carried the load for equality with nary a man in sight. And there is always the risk that over-focusing on men in women’s events may ultimately strengthen rather than dismantle the gender hierarchy status quo.
Third, there is the problem of the Fake Male Feminist. You know this guy. He slings on feminism like a superhero cape when his boss is watching, to impress — or worse, seduce — women, or to avoid being labeled as sexist despite his pattern of sexist behavior. Finally, there is the sincere but utterly naïve, ill-informed, or low-EQ man who’s notion of allyship amounts to rescuing, mansplaining, or even attempting to become the spokesman for women in the organization. As Martin Luther King once reflected, shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. When aspiring male allies fail to understand the critical importance of partnering and collaborating with humility, there is a real risk that they may ultimately undermine women’s initiatives by attempting to dominate them.
The Allies Male Allies Need
Women who want to dismantle sexist systems will be well-served by appreciating the wide variation among male allies and the factors most likely to help them get better at collaborating with women to shrink gender disparities. Diversity consultant Jennifer Brown recognizes that not all male allies are equally evolved. She frames allyship on a continuum, ranging from apathetic (clueless and disinterested regarding gender issues) to aware (has some grasp of the issues but not at all active or engaged in addressing them) to active (well-informed and willing to engage in gender equity efforts, but only when asked) to advocate (routinely and proactively champions gender inclusion). Although we might not waste our time recruiting apathetic men to gender-inclusion events, we’re delighted to get in a room with the other three varieties, taking a shot at spurring their internal motivation and sharpening their ally skillset. We just want them in the fight! The evidence is in. The more positive interaction men have with women in professional settings, the less prejudice and exclusion they tend to demonstrate.
Organizers of women’s initiatives who wish to engage male allies should also consider recent research on psychological standing (a perception of legitimacy as an ally to women). Evidence reveals that gender-parity efforts are most effective when men believe they have a dignified and important role to play, that transformation in the workplace is something they can share in. The motivation for this role is often tied to personal examples and a sense of fairness and justice. Moreover, when allies feel accepted by the disadvantaged group they endeavor to support, their internal motivation to participate is bolstered. If men feel like unicorns, met by raised eyebrows when they muster the wherewithal to attend a manbassador track in a women’s conference, gender alliance efforts falter.
How Men Can Be Better Allies
Here are some with tangible recommendations for men who are invited to participate in women’s conferences or other initiatives as allies for gender equality in the workplace. These are best practices for men who want to be better collaborators with women.
First, just listen! Consultant Chuck Shelton reminds men that listening to women’s voices in a way that inspires trust and respect is a fundamental relationship promise you must make, and then keep, with women who invite you to participate around equity. Generous, world-class listening requires focus, sincerity, empathy, refusal to interrupt, and genuine valuing of both her experience and her willingness to share it with you.
Respect the space. Women’s conferences and ERGs are often one outgrowth of experiences of exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination. Many of these experiences are painful. Large events and local resource groups have afforded women a powerful platform for sharing experiences, providing support, and strategizing equity initiatives. Tread respectfully into these spaces and before you utter a word, revisit the recommendation above.
Remember, it’s not about you. Ask women how you can amplify, not replace or usurp existing gender parity efforts. A large dose of gender humility will help here. Decades of research on prosocial (helpful) behavior reveals a stark gender difference in how it is expressed. While women often express helpfulness communally and relationally, men show helpful intentions through action-oriented behaviors. Sometimes, we need to rein this in. Refrain from taking center stage, speaking for women, or mansplaining how women should approach gender equity efforts.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Developing psychological standing requires a commitment to learning and advocating for gender equity. Learning about the professional challenges of women may produce feelings of self-shame or self-blame that cause anxiety. The solution is more interaction and learning, not less.
Engage in supportive partnerships with women. The best cross-gender ally relationships are reciprocal, and mutually growth-enhancing. Share your social capital (influence, information, knowledge, and organizational resources) with women’s groups but ask them — don’t assume — how you can best support their efforts.
Remember the two parts to allyship. Keep in mind that committing to express as little sexism as possible in your interactions with women is the easy part of allyship. The hard part requires you to take informed action. Use your experience in women’s events and initiatives to learn how you can best become a public ally for social justice around gender. When the time comes, this may require you to upset the status quo.
Originally posted on http://thebusinessmagazineforwomen.com/how-men-can-become-better-allies-to-women/
By Katherine Mangan JUNE 06, 2018
Afew years ago, David M. Yousem thought nothing of having a closed-door mentoring session with a young female scientist. Now, he asks if she would be more comfortable with the door open or closed.
A naturally effusive person, he knows better than to compliment a woman on her springlike attire or to offer a congratulatory hug for a paper that’s been accepted in a prestigious journal when a thumbs up will do.
For Yousem, a professor of radiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, such precautions are "fairly simple and appropriate" adjustments he’s happy to make as a male mentor in the #MeToo era.
National surveys have pointed to a skittishness on the part of some senior men to mentor young women at a time of heightened awareness about sexual harassment. As they watch powerful men get knocked off their perches, they wonder whether an inadvertent slip could jeopardize their own careers. Some are distancing themselves from female graduate students and junior professors. And that troubles educators already worried about the leaky pipeline for women as they attempt to move through the academic ranks.
If men, who dominate the senior positions in many academic departments, shy away from mentoring women, those women will miss out on opportunities to enrich their studies or advance their careers, says Kim M. Elsesser, a research scholar at the Center for the Study of Women at the University of California at Los Angeles.
"Even before the whole #MeToo movement brought such heightened awareness to the issue, many male professors were reluctant to meet alone with a female student, particularly in the evening, or have a student of the opposite sex join them for lunch or coffee or anything that could be misconstrued," says Elsesser, author of Sex and the Office: Women, Men and the Sex Partition That’s Dividing the Workplace.
On the other hand, a professor who throws up his hands and says it’s no longer safe to mentor women — either as students or junior colleagues — may be simply justifying his longstanding lack of interest in doing so.
"Guys who would use #MeToo as an excuse to not engage are probably the typical old curmudgeons you wouldn’t want mentoring women in the first place," says W. Brad Johnson, a professor of psychology at the United States Naval Academy and a faculty associate in the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins.
"It’s probably not a great loss."
Johnson and David G. Smith, an associate professor of sociology at the U.S. Naval War College, tackled such issues in their 2016 book, Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women. Johnson says men may hold unconscious biases about women, seeing them "as nice, but not real leadership material, or in the grad-school context, ticking time bombs of maternity that are not as good an investment."
Compared to the workshops he and Smith offer in corporate settings, Johnson doesn’t hear as much #MeToo backlash from professors. But in STEM fields, where there are fewer women, men who mentor sometimes worry how others view the time they spend alone with junior women.
If they’re feeling somewhat sidelined by the national discussions about sexual harassment, Johnson says, "the one thing men can do to demonstrate that they have their female colleagues’ backs is to engage more, not run for the hills."
Surveys that have focused more on corporate than academic culture have found that too many men are heading for the hills.
The ‘Pence Rule’
A survey conducted this year for the women’s-empowerment group Lean In found that the number of men who are uncomfortable mentoring women has more than tripled, rising from 5 percent to 16 percent, since the recent media coverage on sexual harassment.
And in a poll conducted last year for The New York Times, about a quarter of the respondents said private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Nearly two-thirds said people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work. An extreme example of such nervousness was the U.S. vice president, Mike Pence, who told The Hill that he won’t dine alone with a woman other than his wife. Critics of the #MeToo movement, including conservative bloggers, predicted that fear of crossing some invisible line would prompt others to follow what became known as the "Pence rule."
That could exacerbate problems that predate the current national discussion. That’s because faculty members are already more inclined to mentor male students — particularly white men — than women or minority students, some researchers have found. In one study that involved emails from supposed doctoral students, faculty members were much more likely to respond to requests for guidance from people with names that were easily identifiable as male and white.
Even when men agree to take on female mentees, unintended slights can occur. Mentors who are hyper-aware of their behavior sometimes unintentionally treat women with more formality while developing more chummy connections with men. Taking a protégé to a baseball game or on a fishing trip is no big deal if he’s a man, but could potentially raise eyebrows if she’s a woman, some fear. The same holds true for asking mentees about their personal lives — something a mentor might not hesitate to do if a man was struggling. Researchers whose field work takes them to remote locations might balk at bringing along a junior woman, particularly given the federal government’s recent threats to yank fundingfrom sexual harassers.
The differences matter, because when it comes time to ask for letters of recommendation, a student who’s forged a close personal connection with a professor might receive a more enthusiastic endorsement. The dynamics, of course, can change when the professor or the mentee is gay and the same concerns about inappropriate entanglements are raised.
"Mentor relationships often develop like friendships, and you don’t get that opportunity if you’re on guard and watching your behavior," Elsesser says. "But it’s a double-edged sword." To the extent that a little more formality stops offensive behavior, it’s a good thing, she says, but when it means that women aren’t getting the same access as their male counterparts, it’s bad.
Some people complain to her that women can’t have it both ways; they can’t tell men to behave more cautiously around them but then object that they’re feeling left out.
Elsesser doesn’t buy that. "We can have it both ways," she argues. "We can figure out where the lines are so women can have a safe place to go to work where they are not sexually harassed, but at the same time, have good working relationships" that will help them reach parity with men.
Burden Falls to Senior Women
Andrea S. Kramer writes and speaks about gender-based discrimination alongside her husband, Alton B. Harris. Both are adjunct professors at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.
"Women need to be assured the same opportunities to advance in their careers as men," says Kramer. "This includes being mentored by senior men in their departments without the fear of predatory or inappropriate conduct." At the same time, she says, "Men cannot refuse to mentor young women because they fear allegations of sexual harassment."
If they do, the burden falls to the relatively small number of senior women in the department who may already be spread thin.
One way to overcome such reluctance is for universities to require senior men to mentor young women, Kramer says. Her husband, Harris, agrees that formalized mentor programs that come with an expectation of private, one-on-one meetings could remove some of the discomfort a senior man might feel working with a junior female colleague or graduate student.
"One of the drawbacks, given the reaction to the #MeToo movement, is that men of good will are hesitant to become involved in situations where there could be any suspicion that something improper is going on," Harris says, "It’s not politically correct to mention, but I think there’s a female sensitivity to behavior that, while it may be flirtatious or inappropriate, is a long way from predatory."
Mentors may opt to meet their mentees in groups, or over coffee instead of a beer. "If the complaints we’re hearing from women on their way up are correct," Harris says, maybe that’s a necessary step.
‘A Message of Mistrust’
Double standards can be hard to avoid. Take, for instance, the question of whether to leave the door open or closed during one-on-one meetings. The cautious approach is to leave it at least partially open, but that shouldn’t be influenced by the student’s gender, says Jonathan A. Segal, a partner at the Duane Morris Institute, which advises colleges and businesses on harassment and other legal issues.
Opening it only when meeting with a woman could send her the message that the professor is worried she’s going to claim something untoward happened, Segal says. That also creates barriers to confidential discussions. "If you send a message of mistrust," Segal says, "that creates mistrust."
Some faculty members are changing their behaviors in subtle ways, like ditching the office couch for a couple of comfortable chairs and a table. If a student breaks down crying, say, over a prolonged bout of writer’s block, a mentor may be less likely to offer a reassuring hug.
Sometimes, the lines are obvious. If you’re meeting with a protégé at a conference hotel, Segal says, "stay out of the hotel room. That’s why there are lobbies."
Anne Hedgepeth, director of federal relations for the American Association of University Women, says this is a good time to reassess mentoring practices.
"I don’t think it’s a bad thing for everyone to be evaluating the practices or tactics they put in place to guide and support students," she says. Mentors, she says, should look at their own unconscious biases about what they expect from men and women and should make sure they’re building relationships that are "professional and respect the boundaries of their mentees."
Yousem, the Johns Hopkins radiologist, has helped lead a Master Mentor program at Johns Hopkins that was started on the premise that not everyone is good at mentoring and that those who are should be encouraged and supported. Participants have to be nominated and attend up to 12 hours of workshops on giving meaningful feedback, handling conflicts, and encouraging growth and risk taking. They in turn agree to help their colleagues become better mentors.
Asked what advice he would give another senior man who is uncertain about the appropriate way to mentor a woman today, Yousem, who is also an associate dean of professional development, advises following common-sense rules and being more self aware. The rewards of mentoring, he says, are worth the added reflection. "There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a faculty member — be it a man or woman — take medicine and the profession further than me." Some faculty members whose careers he helped nurture are in positions now, he says, "where I could turn to them as mentors."
Katherine Mangan writes about community colleges, completion efforts, and job training, as well as other topics in daily news. Follow her on Twitter @KatherineMangan, or email her at email@example.com.
For both men and women to benefit, you’ll need to change the standard approach of a mentor being an all-knowing guru who dispenses knowledge. These typically hierarchical, one-way relationships frame men who mentor women as champions, heroes, even rescuers. In this model, the mentor shares wisdom, throws down challenges, and when necessary, protects his protégé from all malignant forces in the organization. Enter the chivalrous knight-damsel in distress archetype. As Jennifer de Vries has astutely observed, painting male allies and mentors as heroic rescuers actually strengthens the gendered status quo, inadvertently reinforcing male positional power while framing women as ill-prepared for serious leadership roles.
So what’s a decent guy to do? Happily, there is a promising alternative to the traditional, hierarchical, unidirectional mentoring model. We call it reciprocal mentoring.
Cross-gender reciprocal mentorships are essentially partnerships in which men and women play complementary roles leading to career and personal development for both parties, and ultimately, greater gender equality in the workplace.
In her research on reciprocal mentorship, Belle Rose Ragins discovered that mentorships with the greatest life-long impact are more mutual. In these relationships, there is greater fluidity in expertise between members.
1. High-impact reciprocal mentorships deal with more than career advancement and compensation and include discussions about concerns that include: professional identity, work-family integration, and personal confidence.
2. The best mentoring relationships between men and women are based on:
- Mutual listening and affirmation
- Shared Power
3. The most effective mentoring relationships occur when they challenge each other and provide direct specific feedback. Too many men are averse to pushing their female mentees the way they push their male protégés. The best mentors don’t harbor stereotypes about women’s capabilities or resilience in the face of challenge. They confront their mentees when they avoid challenges or perform below potential.
Here are two examples from our research:
When Navy Lieutenant, Tabitha Strobel, one of the first women assigned to a U. S. Navy submarine, reported for duty, her male mentors were deliberate about pulling no punches. She got the same tough assignments and challenging watches as her male counterparts, all of it designed to immunize her for the operational challenges ahead.
It took Susan Chambers, Vice President at Walmart, some time to appreciate that her mentor’s constant challenges were a clear expression of care and commitment: “He set such high standards and expectations; he expected me to move so much faster and to achieve so much more than I ever had before. At the time, I felt it was unfair. But it’s only as I look back that I realize I wouldn’t be in my current role without it. I wouldn’t have been able to get through the difficulties I’ve been through if I had not had someone who cared and expected that much early in my career.”
Inclusive leaders are learning that women and men perform better, advance faster, and choose to stay in their organizations when they are reciprocal mentors to each other.
Originally posted on https://thewaywomenwork.com/2018/06/dont-rescue-women-be-a-reciprocal-mentor/
I was commissioned a Navy Lieutenant in 1990. Fresh from graduate school, I reported to Bethesda Naval Hospital for my psychology internship. One of the more salient memories in a year best characterized by high-stress, demanding rotations, and late night emergency watch, was my exposure to an accomplished senior psychologist sent to Bethesda to teach and supervise interns during the first gulf war. A Navy Commander, Betsy Holmes was exceedingly competent and confident. I was in awe of her expertise and, like any duckling in a new field, I took to waddling behind, using her as a professional exemplar, a template for the sort of psychologist I imagined becoming one day. In this fledgling phase of our relationship, hierarchy and structure loomed large. Betsy was a role model, a teacher, and an encourager. She provided guidance and oversight. I was deeply heartened that she seemed to believe I might actually survive that trying first year.
I was in awe of her expertise and, like any duckling in a new field, I took to waddling behind, using her as a professional exemplar, a template for the sort of psychologist I imagined becoming one day.
Not only did I survive internship, but just imagine my delight when learning that I would be assigned to the medical center at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where one of my post-doctoral supervisors would be, you guessed it, Betsy. I think of those two years of preparation for licensure as the second phase of our mentoring relationship. As a newly minted psychologist, I felt like an imposter some days. My internal dialogue went something like this: Astoundingly, nobody around here seems to realize I’m not very competent and I’ll bet it’s just a matter of time before they figure it out and make me walk the plank. I now realize that many new professionals struggle with the imposter syndrome but at the time, I lacked that perspective. Remarkably, Betsy appeared to view my work as quite good. Sure, she offered constructive feedback, made suggestions about different paths I might pursue with challenging patients, and listened generously when I expressed any insecurities about my work. But she always made it clear she saw me as a competent young psychologist. She was patient, affirming, and interested in my perspective.
During our Pearl Harbor years together, I detected a palpable transition in the nature and quality of our relationship. At first, we picked up where we’d left off at Bethesda. Betsy was the senior officer and the singular expert. I was the apprentice tuned to receiving mode for the wisdom she’d accrued. Yet, as the months rolled by, I found our conversations becoming more collegial. Rather than merely offer advice and direction, Betsy more often asked Socratic questions which instigated wonderful clinical and theoretical discussions. At some point, I realized that she was deliberately interacting with me as a colleague, not merely a supervisee. She shared clinical quandaries from her own work and seemed to genuinely appreciate my perspective. She asked me questions about my areas of relative expertise and even invited me to co-teach a workshop with her. When I successfully passed the licensing exam, Betsy celebrated my achievement. At times, I marveled at how our relationship had clearly transitioned from something formal and hierarchical to something far more mutual.
At times, I marveled at how our relationship had clearly transitioned from something formal and hierarchical to something far more mutual.
Among the many gifts I have received from Betsy, perhaps the most important was delivered during my novice years at Pearl Harbor. It was during those years of full time clinical work that I began toying with the idea of an academic career. Seeing patients for eight hours every day just didn’t call to me. I realized I was happiest when I had time to read, write a journal article, and even teach an adjunct class or two at a local college. Because she’d earned my trust and because she listened without judgment, I shared my academic inclinations with Betsy. Instead of telling me I should try harder to enjoy clinical work or poke holes in my scholarly aspirations, Betsy listened, nodded, and immediately began thinking out loud with me about how to make the transition to an academic job. In social psychology, the Michelangelo phenomenon describes the tendency for partners in strong reciprocal relationships to draw out one another’s ideal selves and career/life dreams. In a real way, Betsy became my sculptor, freeing me from the burdens and inhibitions that kept me from pursuing my ideal career path. She took me seriously, expressed belief in my ability to succeed, cheered me on, and wrote a letter of recommendation that helped me secure my first teaching job at a civilian university.
Here is something else great mentors do: They look for opportunities to open doors and sponsor mentees. Four years after I was discharged from the Navy and become ensconced in my first university job, Betsy reached out once again and encouraged me to apply for a rare opening in psychology at the Naval Academy. On Betsy’s urging, I applied, got the job, and two decades later, I still can’t believe my good fortune. It was during this third phase of our mentorship, teaching together as colleagues at Annapolis, that Betsy and I refined a truly reciprocal mentorship. We shared teaching ideas, collaborated on several writing projects, and had regular confidential conversations about hidden politics, our career paths, families, and a few of our quirkier colleagues. It was during these Annapolis years that the scaffolding of our more formal work together fell away, leaving only an abiding collegiality and a caring friendship.
In social psychology, the Michelangelo phenomenon describes the tendency for partners in strong reciprocal relationships to draw out one another’s ideal selves and career/life dreams.In a real way, Betsy became my sculptor, freeing me from the burdens and inhibitions that kept me from pursuing my ideal career path.
Finally, it is worth noting that all the research and writing I have done around gender and mentorship—most notably the publication of Athena Rising with another close colleague, David Smith—can be traced to many formative conversations with Betsy nearly two decades ago. The finest mentors and colleagues make contributions to not only our self-confidence and career success, but also to our creative inspirations and big ideas. Thank you Betsy!
Brad Johnson is one of our faculty members and a main contributor to the RML curriculum. He is the author of several book chapters, 130 journal articles, and 12 books in the areas of mentoring, professional ethics, and counseling. His most recent book, which he co-wrote with David Smith, is Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women (2016). This groundbreaking work is the “springboard” of content for the RML and helped cumulate the creation of our program.
Originally posted on https://www.reciprocalmentoringlab.com/anchors-aweigh-my-reciprocal-mentorship-with-capt-betsy-holmes/
Navigating the rules of office engagement in the #MeToo era, males seek guidance on mentoring women without crossing a line; avoiding ’man-terruptions and ’bro-propriations’
By John Simmons
Being a male ally in the era of #MeToo takes some practice.
Jeremy Sussman, a Google product manager, recently told a young woman sitting beside him, “I’ve noticed your work and you’re very good.”
The visibly uneasy Mr. Sussman, who is 49, continued to explain that he has mentored other women in the past. “And if you want to have that kind of conversation, I’m willing to do it,” he said.
The woman responded positively, but Aloke Desai, a 24-year-old software developer on Google’s Docs team, interrupted the conversation. “I don’t know,” Mr. Desai said. “I got a little date-y vibe from it.”
The exchange was part of a training exercise at last week’s Male Ally Summit, where 90 men, predominantly from the tech industry, gathered for a day of workshops, panel discussions and role-playing sessions at an event space in New York. The conference, organized by the nonprofit women’s organization AnitaB.Org, was designed to help men who want to serve as mentors and advocates for female co-workers but also want guidance in navigating the supercharged atmosphere some workplaces have become for male-female working relationships.
#MeToo has a lot of men watching their step—but not always in ways that are helpful to women. After a number of powerful men lost their jobs over sexual-misconduct allegations, many others—unsure of how to engage with women at work—are responding by distancing themselves from female colleagues. They are sidestepping one-on-one meetings, ducking out of after-work drinks and, in some cases, leaving women out of the day-to-day interactions that build professional relationships and further careers.
Nearly half of male managers said they were uncomfortable joining a woman in a common work activity, such as mentoring, working alone or socializing together, according to a recent survey of about 3,000 employed adults from LeanIn.Org, a nonprofit organization that aims to support women’s careers. And 55% of American men said the increased focus on sexual harassment and assault has made it harder for them to know how to interact with women at work, according to a new Pew Research Center Poll of more than 6,000 adults.
Men like the 90 gathered at the Male Ally Summit in New York say they are doubling down on their commitment to help women advance by coaching them and calling out biases. Most attendees said they found out about the event through friends or co-workers. Many said they were expensing the $250 admission fee for the event to their employers.
The conference’s keynote speakers were Brad Johnson and David Smith, co-authors of “Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women,” published by Routledge in 2016. They said instead of pulling away from female co-workers, men should actively pursue more equality at the office.
“What that means is more coffees, more dinners, more mentorship,” Mr. Johnson said, adding that men need to find a way to offer help without simply opening with “I’d like to be your mentor.” Any offer of mentorship should always be accompanied by a concrete observation about the potential mentee’s work performance, he said.
The two authors noted that women receive less mentoring when men wait for those relationships to form in an organic way and now some men are reticent to extend the offer.
“They truly are scared that they’re going to say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, but some men are using this as an excuse,” said Mr. Smith.
Panel discussion as part of a conference, organized by the nonprofit women’s organization AnitaB.Org, designed to help men who want to serve as mentors and advocates for female coworkers but also want guidance in navigating workplace dynamics. PHOTO: BRIANA ELLEDGE
Kyle Fritz, a software development engineer at Audible, said he isn’t comfortable assuming the mantle of male ally just yet. He has been training as a manager with a team of four men and one woman at the Amazon Inc.-owned audio entertainment company for six months. In that time, he says he has been putting male allyship into practice, mostly by employing calculated strategies to involve women more.
Early on, Mr. Fritz noticed a pattern in his team’s unstructured brainstorming sessions: “The guys would get animated, snatching pens out of each other’s hands to write on the whiteboard,” he said. Meanwhile, the team’s only female, who has more experience than the men, would withdraw.
To give her more of a voice, Mr. Fritz ditched the whiteboard, which created a dynamic where men jockeyed for position, and now holds meetings around a table.
Jamy Barton, a senior director of program management at Audible—and one of about 20 women in attendance—said she simply wants colleagues who want the best people in the room to get the best results.
“I just want someone who has my back, listens to me communicate in my own way,” she said.
In meetings, male allies can help women guard against two common occurrences–“bro-propriations,” or instances where a man takes credit for restating an idea previously raised by a woman in the same meeting, and “man-terruptions,” which is just what it sounds like, said Karen Catlin, a former vice president of engineering at Adobe Systems Inc., who now helps technology firms find ways to attract and retain more women.
Her suggestion: Pipe up and say something like, “I see you agree with a point Ana made earlier in the meeting” or, “I’d like to hear Emma finish her thought.”
Daniel Wong, a 24-year-old consultant for Microsoft Corp. based in Phoenix, helps companies implement the software giant’s Azure cloud computing service. Lately, he said, he has been coaching a female co-worker on ways to establish credibility with clients who doubt her expertise.
“That kind of thing never happens to me,” Mr. Wong said.
By W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith
We know that male mentors and sponsors are essential for helping talented women get ahead. When women are mentored by men, they make more money, receive more promotions, and report greater satisfaction with their career trajectories. Although advantageous for all employees, mentoring is particularly helpful to women for addressing the myriad barriers to career advancement. But in the wake of the #MeToo Movement there are growing whispers among some men that it just isn’t safe to mentor women. We’ve also heard from some men who are having the opposite reaction, determining to mentor and “save” more women. While we applaud their good intentions, this attitude is also unlikely to have the results they want.
Let’s just start by saying the obvious: of course men should mentor women. It’s wrong (and illegal) to exclude half the population. But taking a save-the-day approach won’t work very well, either. Even the standard mentoring approach of the mentor as all-knowing guru, dispensing knowledge, implies a hierarchical, one-way relationship that can frame men who mentor women as champions, heroes, even rescuers. In this model, the mentor shares wisdom, throws down challenges, and when necessary, protects his protégé from all malignant forces in the organization. Enter the chivalrous knight-damsel in distress archetype. As Jennifer de Vries has astutely observed, painting male allies and mentors as heroic rescuers actually strengthens the gendered status quo, inadvertently reinforcing male positional power while framing women as ill-prepared for serious leadership roles.
So what’s a decent guy to do? Happily, there is a promising alternative to the traditional, hierarchical, unidirectional mentoring model. We call it reciprocal mentoring. Cross-gender reciprocal mentorships are essentially partnerships in which men and women play complementary roles leading to career and personal development for both parties, and ultimately, greater gender equality in the workplace.
In her research on reciprocal mentorship, Belle Rose Ragins discovered that mentorships with the greatest life-long impact are more mutual. In these relationships, there is greater fluidity in expertise between members. Although mentors, by definition, have more experience in the profession, mentees bring their own insights, life experiences, and talents to the table. Mentors in these high-quality partnerships value and are influenced by their mentee’s perspective.
By entering mentoring connections with real humility and curiosity, male mentors may find that they learn more about the experiences of women in their organization, diversify their networks and enhance their interpersonal skills. For example, many of the male mentors in our interviews on cross-gender mentoring relationships concluded that they learned and benefitted more than their female mentees.
High-impact reciprocal mentorships have some distinctive elements. Here are some characteristics that define the best mentorships between women and men:
- Mutual listening and affirmation: In high-quality mentoring, both members learn and grow from the relationship. There is fluid expertise between members. This requires men to keep an open mind, maintain a learning orientation, and recognize that expertise may shift depending on the specific mentoring episode or phase of the mentorship. Generous listening, avoiding assumptions, and patiently drawing out the other person’s authentic self and genuine aspirations are hallmarks of reciprocal mentorships.
- Humility: Truly transformational mentors are humble. They recognize that their own vulnerability and imperfection serves as an empowering model, levels the playing field, and opens the door to building their own empathy and wisdom. Although it can be a challenge for senior men to check their egos at the door, demonstrate transparency about what they don’t know, and express real curiosity about a mentee’s unique experience in the workplace, such humility is a key reciprocal mentoring skill.
- Shared power: Genuine reciprocity requires even high-ranking mentors to reject hierarchy and emphasize power-sharing. Acutely aware of privilege conferred by gender and race, men in reciprocal mentorships are deliberate about sharing social capital, including influence, information, knowledge, and support with mentees.
- An extended range of mentoring outcomes: Reciprocal mentorship partners are interested in helping one another find success beyond mere career advancement and compensation. Less tangible but equally salient mentoring conversations may center on concerns such as professional identity, work-family integration, and personal confidence. The finest reciprocal mentors are interested in helping mentees hone things such as self-efficacy, emotional intelligence and resilience in the face of stress.
Inclusive leaders are learning that women (and men) perform better, advance faster, and choose to stay in their organizations when they have effective mentors and sponsors. And because women report a preference for less hierarchy and more reciprocity in their mentorships, companies are doing more to develop and equip reciprocal mentoring pairs.
As one example, Greatheart Consulting has launched a Reciprocal Mentoring Lab, an approach to advancing high-performing women and equipping gender-savvy men. In Greatheart’s Lab, new or existing cross-gender mentoring teams join several other teams for two days of intensive learning and reciprocal skill development. The goal is to create strong schemas or mental maps for reciprocal cross-gender mentorship that can then be exported back to the dyad’s organization, ultimately serving to change the mentoring culture.
Ultimately, any mentoring program for women must address organizational and cultural change. Sure, strong mentorships may help women to overcome individual challenges with the existing organizational hierarchy and power dynamics. However, unless mentors also target the workplace status quo, biases and stereotypes will continue to reinforce gender inequities. Promoting a mentoring culture where talented men and women engage in reciprocal developmental connections may finally create change agents and allies capable of truly moving the dial on gender inclusion.
Michelangelo approached the craft of sculpting with the humble conviction that a unique and beautiful piece of art already existed within the stone, and his job was only to release it. We think the best mentors approach their art in the same way.
Social psychologists have already confirmed that in the best romantic relationships, partners sculpt one another in such a manner as to bring each person closer to their ideal self — the person they want to be. Termed the Michelangelo phenomenon, a skilled and thoughtful relationship partner becomes committed to first understanding and then reinforcing or drawing out another’s ideal form. But a skilled mentor can also affirm another’s ideal self — that unique, promising, but vulnerable form that might be hidden from view.
How exactly does a mentor develop a vision of the mentee’s ideal self? As it turns out, it’s all about the art of affirmation. Evidence reveals that two distinct components of mentor affirmation come into play. First comes perceptual affirmation. Excellent mentors are intentional about taking the time to truly “see” their mentees, understanding — and accepting — both their authentic real selves and their ideal selves and imagined career destinations. This takes time and patience. A mentor must earn trust, be accessible, and listen generously. Here is the key: Once a mentee’s ideal self becomes clear, the mentor must consistently endorse the mentee’s vision.
The second element involves behavioral affirmation, helping mentees to engage in behaviors aligned with their ideal selves. Having gained a window into whom a mentee dreams of becoming, a mentor opens doors and conjures the opportunities the mentee will require to get there. For example, when Franklin’s perceptions of and behavior toward Shawna are congruent with Shawna’s ideal, Franklin will sculpt toward her ideal: He will elicit behaviors and dispositions that are consistent with Shawna’s ideal self. Over the course of frequent interactions during which Franklin elicits her ideal self, Shawna will flourish, moving closer to what she would like to be.
It can be a challenge for mentors to use the Michelangelo approach when they’re mentoring someone of the opposite gender. This is especially true for male mentors and female mentees, which is a more common pairing than the reverse. The truth is that men are still more likely to hold senior leadership positions in most organizations, and thus make up most of the mentors.
Research on cross-gender mentoring reveals that women face more barriers in finding a mentor, and that even when they do, they may reap a narrower range of professional and psychological benefits. One reason for this may be that when it comes to key interpersonal skills such as listening, men sometimes struggle with the sort of active listening required to help a mentee gradually unearth her ideal self.
Can men truly channel Michelangelo and mentor women with the humility and patience described above? Our study of male-female mentorships at work suggests that the answer is yes, but only if men work hard at understanding some of the features of socialized masculinity that often interfere with good cross-gender mentorships.
First, almost all mentors have an inclination to clone themselves in their mentees. That is, they — often unconsciously — push mentees to pursue career trajectories and make life or career decisions that mirror their own. Although ego-gratifying for the mentor, cloning is about as far from genuine Michelangelo affirmation as one can get.
While this is true of both male and female mentors, in our experience it can be harder for male mentors to overcome because of the way men and women are socialized to listen, and the ways that women are (generally) more relationship-oriented, while men are (again, generally) more task-oriented. To avoid this instinctual cloning tendency, men have to work hard at reallylistening to the women they mentor, focusing on the relationship more than the specific task being discussed. Men also have more of a tendency to jump to fixes and solutions in conversations with a mentee rather than taking the time to listen, understand, and appreciate her perspective.
Men who aspire to Michelangelo-like mentorship for women can also get waylaid by troublesome gendered assumptions about mentees. We all fall prey to assumptions. If you are a man reading this, quickly complete the following sentence: She’s a woman, therefore, she must want _____, she must be planning to _____, and she probably has no interest in _____. If, upon reflection, some of your answers make you cringe, you are not alone. Even well-intended assumptions can backfire.
Consider the example that Robert Lightfoot, acting director of NASA, shared with us about how assumptions got him off track at one point:
I was really fortunate early in my career to have a “tipping point” experience in this area. I was on a selection committee. One of the other members of the committee was one of my own mentors, a woman. Very quickly, the committee reached consensus on a selectee. As we went around the table to discuss her, I made the comment: “This job requires a lot of travel, and she just had a baby. I don’t know, this would really be tough for her if she were hired.” Fortunately, my mentor looked across the table at me and said very clearly, “That’s not your decision to make! She knows she has to travel, she knows she just had a baby, don’t you make the decision for her.” That hit me like a ton of bricks.
Another crucial element on the path to affirming a mentee’s ideal vision of self and career is honest-to-goodness gender humility. This is the art of being self-aware and humble about everything you don’t know about women generally and about your mentee’s experience as a woman specifically. Authentic gender humility requires genuine curiosity about her unique experiences and concerns, transparency about the limits of your understanding, and the capacity for expressing empathy as she feels comfortable revealing her dreams for the future.
Here is a caveat. Should a mentee appear to be aiming too low or selling herself short, an engaged mentor will paint a more ambitious and inspiring vision of her potential, including previously uncontemplated possibilities. Great mentors are often given to crafting bold, even audacious pictures of where a mentee can go in their career. For instance, Sandy Stosz, a Coast Guard three-star admiral, recently told us:
[My mentors] gave me opportunities I hadn’t thought about. They gave me a chance to look beyond what I had as my vision, which was just becoming a sailor and commanding a ship one day. They helped me look at a bigger picture, not just the Coast Guard but the entire Department of Transportation. Those two men showed me that there’s more out there than just settling for going to sea, that there are special jobs and possibilities I hadn’t even considered.
In the end, a great mentor will honor the mentee’s ideal self and career dream (not the one he’s invested in or the one that mirrors his own career). Thoughtful sculptors use the tools of patient listening, Socratic questioning, unconditional acceptance, and generous affirmation to help draw forth the dream, name it out loud, and then set about championing mentees’ efforts to get there.
Originally posted on https://hbr.org/2018/01/the-best-mentors-think-like-michelangelo
The #MeToo movement, which documents collective experiences of sexual harassment, has prompted an uncomfortable question: Why don’t other men speak up and stop sexual harassment?
Part of the answer is that men aren’t always able to recognize sexist behavior in others—and in themselves. In some research, both men and women exposed to acts of sexism notice and accurately describe the behavior, yet men are less likely to label it as sexist. Men are even less likely to label a behavior as sexism if it’s subtle or superficially benevolent, such as when a man refers to a woman as “nice, nurturing, or maternal,” thereby undermining her status as a competent, take-charge leader. Men also hold certain biases and stereotypes that may cause them to see a situation differently than women.
Both men and women exposed to acts of sexism notice and accurately describe the behavior. Yet men are less likely to label it as sexist.
For instance, take the pervasive stereotypes of men as breadwinners and women as homemakers. These ingrained stereotypes—men are assertive and aggressive, women are more passive and communal—tend to exacerbate status and power differences. Stereotypes might not only justify men’s sexist behaviors but also become internalized by women who become silent and self-blaming in the face of sexism and harassment.
Outside of their perceptions of others, men can also struggle to see their own behavior clearly, a finding that some say can be explained by biological and evolutionary theory. Evolutionary psychology, for instance, asserts that men have a stronger innate drive to find a mate. According to this theory, men can intend their actions to mean one thing without realizing that they come across differently (that is, as harassment) to women. As a case in point, men are more prone to the sexual overperception bias, which shows up when a man finds a woman attractive and thinks (falsely) that she feels the same way about him. The evidence-based message for guys in the workplace? Chances are, she isn’t that into you.
Yet another line of research shows that men react very differently to asymmetric power dynamics than women do, a tendency that can fuel sexist behavior. When men who are already prone to be predators (according to a “likelihood to sexually harass” scale) have power over a woman in the workplace, they may be vulnerable to a power–sex association, which makes them even more attracted to subordinate women.
The evidence-based message for guys in the workplace? Chances are, she isn’t that into you.
Although these social and biological explanations suggest why sexism occurs, they can’t and don’t excuse men from the ethical obligation to take responsibility for their actions and act less sexist.
One important antidote to male sexism and indeed the documented perception problem in the workplace is encouraging men to be allies of women—that is, to push for equal rights. In our research on cross-gender mentoring, we explored the best practices of many men who routinely step up and not only call out sexism but collaborate proactively with women to promote gender equity for the good of their organization.
Allies are essential to improving workplace culture: While men are more likely to overestimate their male peers’ perceptions and acceptance of sexism and often feel like it isn’t their place to confront sexist behavior, the reality is that men are more effective and incur fewer costs than women who take on workplace sexists.
Research demonstrates that men, compared to women, are seen as more legitimate and credible when they confront sexist behavior, in part because, as members of the out-group, they’re seen as acting in the absence of self-interest. And there are other effects: Research shows that women report more self-confidence, more self-esteem, and less self-stereotyping when men confront sexist behavior than when a woman calls out sexism. This same research also finds that women are more likely to report sexual harassment when male allies speak up. Ally confrontations empower others to challenge not just sexism but also other discriminatory behavior directed at minority groups.
Men are seen as more legitimate and credible when they confront sexist behavior, in part because, as members of the out-group, they’re seen as acting in the absence of self-interest.
So how do we develop, facilitate, and reinforce male ally behavior? First of all, ignore those like Vice President Mike Pence who advocate gender segregation in the workplace. The fact is that men need more interaction with women, not less. Having men work alongside women as equals reduces prejudice and discrimination. Cross-gender mentoring programs and peer mentoring programs can inspire more positive male-female interaction within organizations. So can encouraging men to participate in employee resource groups (ERGs) that were formed for women to share how their work experiences may differ from men’s. As the minorities in these groups, men are in the perfect spot to listen to women, build empathy, and check their assumptions.
In our book, Athena Rising, we interviewed Robert Lightfoot, acting NASA administrator, who told us about the (wrong) assumptions he made about the needs of the mothers that he mentored in the workplace—and about the female colleague who pointed this out. His solution to keep those gendered assumptions in check? Ask lots of questions. Like Lightfoot, effective male allies have a healthy dose of gender humility and are willing to admit mistakes and ask for feedback. Most importantly, as leaders in their organizations, they communicate the successes of male allies and advocates—helping other men view their workplace with different eyes.
Originally posted on http://behavioralscientist.org/see-see-importance-men-allies/
By Melissa Richardson
Like many women (and men), I believe that ‘the system’ itself needs to change before the female half of our population will be appropriately represented in the echelons of power. (By the system, I mean the ingrained habits, behaviours and rewards in place in most work environments – they are the invisible ‘rules’ that have been made mostly by men because men have been in positions of power.)
Even as an advocate for the power of mentoring, I do not believe that mentoring women is magically going to fix ‘the system’. However, if men in positions of power mentor women, and do so in an appropriate and empowering fashion, then more women may rise to the top and feel confident in positions of power.
The more women comfortably inhabit the top ranks, the more likely the system will change. In addition, men who mentor women often experience a change in their understanding of what it is like to be a woman in their business or profession, and this in turn can influence how the rules continue to be made.
The key words there are “appropriate and empowering”. We do not want to mentor women to behave just like men.
The goal instead must be to enable them to deal with power confidently, while still remaining women.
I recently finished reading Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women. The authors are two men with military and academic careers, who have personally witnessed some of the most male-dominated workplaces.
Although women were interviewed as part of the research for the book, it ultimately brings a very male perspective to the art of mentoring women.
Some of the 46 dos and don’ts listed in the book really resonated with me as important in truly empowering women through mentoring. So if you are a man who is mentoring a woman and you don’t have time to read the whole book, here are my top eight from the list.
The first three relate to confronting feelings about and behaviour toward women that you may not even be aware are happening.
Know Thyself: Confront your Gender Biases
I agree with the authors on the importance of recognising those unconscious assumptions we make about each other every day. Attitudes and expectations about women are so deep-seated that you may not even be conscious of them. Work to recognise your own beliefs before the relationship begins. (The book has a few good exercises you can try.)
Let her cry if she needs to cry
It is so important that tears are not seen as a sign of weakness or incompetence. Women do tend to cry more than men, but as the authors put it, “Tears are not inconsistent with excellent work, including first-rate leadership.”
Make Sure She Gets Included
The book very well describes the phenomenon of women being excluded, while men are completely impervious to their isolation. As a man mentoring a woman one of the most valuable contributions you can make to her career is simply ensuring that she is included in key meetings, has access to key information and does not allow herself to be taken for granted.
The next points relate to “male” behaviour that needs to be kept in check when mentoring women.
Be honest, direct and unconditionally accepting
Men are socially conditioned to believe it is ungentlemanly to hurt a woman or make her cry. While noble, this attitude can be limiting to a female mentee. In order to facilitate growth, a mentor must not pull punches with a mentee, regardless of gender.
Help her construct a rich constellation of career helpers
As the authors so beautifully put it, “for goodness sake, don’t do the guru thing”. Men are encouraged to avoid protective and possessive behaviour with their female mentees. Instead open doors to your networks and allow her to collect a range of career helpers.
These next two points are particularly relevant when mentoring a woman in a very male-dominated environment.
Don’t promote her before she’s ready
This advice seems counter-intuitive, but touches on a very real trap for many women. In organisations with a dearth of women at the top, there can be pressure to push a mentee up the chain as quickly as possible. The authors correctly identify this as “benign sabotage”. Push too hard or too fast and you will set your mentee up for a fall.
Affirm that she belongs (over and over)
I wish it were otherwise, but the authors are correct in identifying that woman can suffer imposter syndrome in a male-centric environment. Sometimes a woman’s biggest barrier to success is her own self-doubt. Male mentors need to understand this phenomenon, be sensitive to the signs and look for every opportunity to confirm that she belongs at the top.
This final point is my personal favourite.
No cloning allowed!
This advice is relevant in almost any mentoring relationship. After all, we mentor to enable mentees to grow and become empowered, not to create a bunch of Mini-Mes.
It is particularly important that men not try to mould their female mentees in their own image. What is needed, both for women as individuals and for the goal of a gender-balanced workplace, is for women to develop as authentic leaders – not as male mimics.
Although the practice of undergraduate research, scholarship and creative work has long been a fixture in American higher education, several developments within the past couple of years have drawn much-needed attention to the role of the undergraduate faculty mentor. The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index identified that only about two in 10 college students strongly agreed that they had a mentor who encouraged them in their goals. In 2015, Purdue University administrators announced their plans to make mentoring undergraduate students a point of emphasis in tenure reviews. And since then, scores of articles and studies have appeared about the role and importance of mentoring.
Our interest in those developments is in the way they are focusing attention and conversation on the crucial practice of mentoring undergraduate students. For three summers, we co-led a seminar at Elon University’s Center for Engaged Learning on mentoring undergraduate research for faculty members and undergraduate research program directors from institutions in the United States and abroad. The work of experts in the field of mentoring, as well as George Kuh and the American Association of Colleges and Universities, has identified undergraduate research, scholarship and creative work as among 10 high-impact practices and provided the foundation for our seminar. Yet we’ve pushed one step farther. Our seminar participants have identified one key to this high-impact practice: the mentor who works closely with a student engaged in a research or creative project.
Guided by our own knowledge and experiences of mentoring that, in turn, have been enhanced by our seminar participants' studies of mentoring practices, we’ve learned a few things about what excellent mentoring is, and what it's not. And along the way, we have acquired a better idea of what institutions can do (and in some cases, what they shouldn't do) to enhance the well-mentored undergraduate experience.
Mentoring relies on quality relationships that endure over time. An intensive summer or multiyear mentored undergraduate experience, for example, supports students’ developing expertise in a field of study as well as their personal growth. And as a result, mentoring connotes a relationship that transcends mere assigned roles such as advising and teaching.
Yet good intentions and the proliferation of programs for undergraduate research do not guarantee that good-quality mentoring happens. Even when students, faculty members or administrators label these assigned relationships "mentorships," there is no guarantee that such supervision will reflect effective mentoring practice. Student involvement in undergraduate research or creative work alone offers no guarantee of good mentoring.
We instead suggest that colleges and universities better emphasize quality mentoring relationships and develop strategies and practices that assist faculty members and students alike in aspiring to and developing an excellent mentoring experience. Specifically, they should:
- Define the relationship. The farther we progressed in our seminar, the more complicated the meaning of mentoring became. Not every student-faculty assignment or interaction results in mentoring, even if it is labeled as such. An intentional focus on high-quality mentoring requires a critical definition of the developmental relationship we have in mind. Colleges and universities would be well served to articulate:
- what good mentoring is on their campuses (and how it differs from the other important roles a faculty member plays for students),
- how it is operationally defined,
- what the appropriate expectations are,
- what its best practices are, and
- what its distinct manifestations are among the disciplines.
- Train faculty members over time. Holding the occasional workshop for faculty on mentoring will not alone advance an institutional culture of high-quality mentoring. Rather, institutions should commit to a prolonged and robust system of mentor selection and training, one that begins with a faculty-faculty mentoring program, incorporates the importance of recognizing and engaging the variety of student developmental needs, and includes regular assessment of mentoring effectiveness with students.
- Provide adequate support. Undergraduate research offices, and the people who occupy them, need clear direction from campus constituencies about the role and value of mentoring at the institution. Likewise, those offices should have financial backing -- not only funds available to support students and faculty in undergraduate research experiences but also to support consistent programming and training about what makes a high-quality mentor.
- Make it a priority. Chief academic officers play a key role in making good mentoring a priority on campuses. They must allocate the resources and create the infrastructure to fully support undergraduate research offices. They also should support diverse pathways for faculty members to be involved in undergraduate research, following appropriate training and perhaps even supervised experience in the mentor role.
- Focus on competence. Perhaps most politically sensitive, we suggest colleges and universities pay more and better attention to competence of those in the mentoring role, and recognize that not every faculty member is a good mentor to undergraduate students at every stage in their career. It would be helpful to assist faculty members in thoughtfully working to balance the various expectations and aspirations of their own careers with associated activities related to high-quality mentoring of undergraduate students. One important element of such planning is that faculty members consider when they can (and when they cannot) invest in a high-quality mentoring relationship with an undergraduate student.
- Recognize and reward good mentoring. Colleges and universities need to consider how mentoring undergraduate students in research fits into the evaluative standards used for the promotion and tenure processes, and how other kinds of tangible supports can be offered to those who excel in such activity. Given the vital learning opportunity such experiences offer to students -- not to mention the considerable time and effort required of the faculty member -- we believe that faculty work in this high-impact practice should be recognized, rewarded and formalized in institutional practice and policy.
- Assess and reassess. Finally, if we are to hold to the belief that good-quality mentoring is inextricably linked with successful undergraduate research experiences, then we need to commit to an honest assessment and evaluation of these experiences that provides the faculty mentor with an opportunity for growth and development in this important role.
What we have come to know about the experience for students engaged in undergraduate research, scholarship and creative work is that it has the potential to facilitate deep and lasting high-impact learning. This potential can only be fully realized when colleges and universities commit to the belief that high-quality mentoring matters -- for students, faculty members and their institutions over all -- and they put practices and programs in place to promote, reinforce and celebrate it.
Originally posted by https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2017/10/27/advice-how-most-effectively-mentor-students-essay?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=38380dc454-DNU20171027&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-38380dc454-197487557&mc_cid=38380dc454&mc_eid=7db4db213d
Increasingly, new employees and junior members of any profession are encouraged—sometimes stridently—to “find a mentor!” Four decades of research reveals that the effects of mentorship can be profound and enduring; strong mentoring relationships have the capacity to transform individuals and entire organizations. Organizations that retain and promote top talent—both female and male—are more likely to thrive.
But the mentoring landscape is unequal. 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. Athena Rising is a book for men about how to mentor women deliberately and effectively. It is a straightforward, no-nonsense manual for helping men of all institutions, organizations, and businesses to become excellent mentors to women.
Co-authors W. Brad Johnson, PhD, and David Smith, PhD, draw from extensive research and years of experience as experts in mentoring relationships and gender workplace issues. When a man mentors a woman, they explain, the relationship is often complicated by conventional gender roles and at times hostile external perceptions. Traditional notions of mentoring are often modeled on male-to-male relationships—the sort that begin on the golf course, involve a nearly exclusive focus on career achievement, and include more than a few slaps on the back over drinks after work. But women often report a desire for mentoring that integrates career and family aspects of life. Women want a mentor who not only “gets” this, but truly honors it.
Men need to fully appreciate just how crucial their support of promising junior women can be in helping them to persist, promote, and thrive in their vocations and organizations. As women succeed, lean in, and assume leading roles in any organization or work context, that culture will become more egalitarian, effective, and prone to retaining top talent.
In the last week, film producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual harassment — which many have described as an open secret in Hollywood — have exploded onto the pages of the New York Times. The New Yorker documents even more disturbing accusations of rape and assault. It’s now clear that many men and women in Weinstein’s company and in the film industry knew about these alleged crimes but remained silent, allowing it to continue.
How does something like this happen? It happens for some of the same reasons that equal pay, parental leave, and equitable hiring and promotion have stalled in many companies: Women lack genuine male allies in the workplace.
Real male allies tend to have three things in common as agents of organizational change. Debra Meyerson and Megan Tompkins’s research, using the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program at the University of Michigan, finds that allies need three traits in order to create institutional changes to support gender diversity. First, as majority stakeholders, they have insider knowledge of the organization. Second, they show genuine understanding of the cost of inequality for everyone (not to mention the organizational bottom line). Finally, they demonstrate an honest commitment to what is right and just.
Cultural change requires a nucleus of organizational catalysts who are insiders with outsider cultural beliefs. Meyerson and Tompkins describe them as “individuals who identify with and are committed to their organizations, and are also committed to a cause, community, or ideology that is fundamentally different from, and possibly at odds with, the dominant culture of their organization[s].” In today’s workplace, these are men at every level of power and leadership acting to call out insults and affronts, eliminate pay and promotion disparities, and advocate for policies that retain a diverse talent pool. They are driven by the cause — not ulterior motives such as career advancement, public recognition, or getting a date. They truly believe the system is both unfair and capable of change.
So, why aren’t there more of these men?
Too often, men find themselves in a situation where a male colleague makes a sexist comment or joke in a group of men and women. They feel the awkward discomfort, fully grasping the inappropriateness of his remarks. In this context, men too often look to see how a female colleague reacts, as if requiring confirmation that she was offended before bothering or daring to say something. Real male allies act at this point. Yet being in groups often inhibits action.
Talk with men about their mothers, wives, and daughters, and most will espouse commitment to gender equality; many express real anger at the possibility that these important women in their lives might be treated unfairly, harassed, or assaulted. Privately, lots of men are allies for gender equity. So why not publicly? Why don’t more men vocalize and demonstrate support for women at work? This is where social science helps reveal a number of social psychological, often implicit and unconscious, processes that create timidity and perpetuate silence among potential male allies.
One is the bystander effect. When there are many witnesses, responsibility feels diffuse — people tend to expect that someone else will act.
Another is conformity: Belonging to a group is powerful, and can hinder us from acting against what we think is the opinion of the majority. Recent research shows men overestimate their peers’ acceptance of sexism, which may result in a reluctance to act.
A third reason has to do with what psychologists call psychological standing, a sense of having skin in the game. Research on psychological standing shows that one aspect of men’s reluctance to advocate for gender-parity initiatives is they don’t think it’s their place as men.
But researchers have also shown that these factors can be overcome. Bystander intervention trainings have helped people understand and get over their hesitation to get involved. Other interventions have flipped conformity on its head. For example, Christopher Kilmartin and his colleagues reduced men’s perception that other men accept sexism by using interventions that verbally critiqued sexist ideologies with role-playing and written exercises. (A control group completed an assertiveness skills exercise.) The research team found a significant reduction in sexist attitudes for the men participating in the intervention. And some diversity initiatives have tackled the problem of psychological standing to include men in the conversation about policies and initiatives to reveal how they too will win as workplaces become more equitable.
More education and greater understanding of the social psychological processes that can affect behavior is an important component of developing and empowering male allies. But linking gender equity to leadership is equally vital. To create a culture in which men can be allies, we find it’s essential to reframe gender equality as a leadership issue instead of a “women’s issue.” There are several ways to do this.
First, emphasize the importance of integrity. Integrity is not only knowing and acting on what is right but also, as Yale Law’s Stephen Carter implores, publicly explaining why you are doing so. As a leader, it’s not good enough to be a male ally in the privacy of your home or in personal conversations with female colleagues; you must act publicly and transparently.
Leaders also have an obligation to their teams to create a work environment that is free of harm and that allows people to be their best. There are volumes of research documenting the insidious and detrimental effects of harassment, bias, and prejudice in a toxic workplace. When men ignore gender discrimination and harassment, evidence-based outcomes for all employees include: reduced psychological safety, increased use of sick leave, decreased morale, decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, decreased job satisfaction, and diminished organizational commitment. Real male allies are committed to creating an inclusive workplace free of hostility and bias.
Beyond acting to correct or stop sexist behavior, real male allies advocate for policies and practices that improve the workplace for everyone — even those who don’t look like them. For example, just because you don’t have children doesn’t mean paid parental leave and available childcare are not important to many of your colleagues. Real male allies also step up when it comes to recruiting, hiring, and promotion practices. In their research on 350 executives, David Hekman and Stefanie Johnson demonstrate that while white men are not penalized for publicly valuing diversity, people of color and women are penalized in performance ratings when they advocate for such initiatives. Although men may fear reprisal for championing diversity and inclusion initiatives, or feel it’s not their place, the evidence is clear that they have little to lose.
Finally, it is imperative that leaders create a work environment that supports allyship itself — a workplace where curiosity, courage, confidence, caring, and commitment are valued traits. In this environment, men can support each other on the path to becoming an ally — acknowledging mistakes, holding each other accountable, and maintaining a learning orientation along the way. Maybe then we can appreciate our role as agents of change. Maybe then men can lean in as real male allies.
No workplace is immune to the self-absorbed and self-important employee. You know the one. Preoccupied with status, appearance, and power, narcissists exude a palpable sense of entitlement, often overestimate skills and abilities (while devaluing others), and can be quite comfortable manipulating others for personal gain.
They can be hard to spot at first; a sophisticated narcissist can create a terrific first impression. What will eventually be recognized as haughty arrogance and grandiose self-importance might at first be misinterpreted as bold self-confidence.
Psychologists define narcissism as a toxic personality syndrome defined by grandiosity, need for affirmation, and poor empathy for others. But developmentally, not all narcissists are created equal. Primary narcissists are what we often call “spoiled” — it’s likely that they had parents who worshipped the ground they walked on, lavished them with exaggerated and inflated praise, and failed to offer honest and balanced assessments of their child’s attributes and performance. On the other hand, compensatory narcissists were children who may have suffered significant emotional abuse or neglect at the hands of parents. To counteract real despair and self-loathing, these children found solace in grandiose fantasy. Although this narcissistic compensation offers an effective escape from emotional pain in childhood, by adolescence and young adulthood the narcissistic behavior has become calcified and dysfunctional.
Odds are that at some point in your managerial career, you will have to mentor a narcissist (or at least a fairly self-absorbed person). Contemporary epidemiologic data shows that narcissism is on the rise in American society, and is more common among men.
But is it even possible to mentor a narcissist? The best mentorships are a two-way street, and effective mentees do things to facilitate and support the mentor’s efforts to guide and grow them. For instance, great mentees admit imperfection, accept correction, challenge nondefensively, transparently share areas of relative weakness and necessary development, demonstrate gratitude for a mentor’s time and commitment, and show empathy and awareness of demands on the mentor, often offering to collaborate on projects to lighten the mentor’s load. Of course, each of these ideal mentee behaviors hinges on personal attributes and aspects of emotional intelligence often lacking in a narcissistic person.
There are other reasons that mentors may struggle in relationships with narcissistic mentees. First, narcissists often suffer real deficits in insight about how and why they annoy others while sabotaging their own success. Psychologists describe their behavior as egosyntonic, meaning they see their behavior as entirely legitimate (It’s all the fools around me who don’t appreciate my special talents; they’re the ones who need to change). These self-enhancing perceptual distortions lead them to take credit for any success and blame others for every failure. Second, as a consequence of their poor insight, narcissistic mentees are less likely to initiate mentoring relationships in the first place (Who, me? I certainly don’t need any help). If assigned to a mentor, they will often engage only for the purpose of criticizing others and seeking the mentor’s affirmation for their inflated self-assessments. Third, mentoring a narcissist may pose some political risk for a mentor. Although one element of excellent mentorship is advocacy and public support, narcissistic mentees may frequently create conflict with others, perhaps reacting with unreasonable anger when questioned or criticized by colleagues or supervisors. As a consequence, the mentor may often be doing damage control and conflict mediation for this mentee. Finally, the narcissist may not be much fun to mentor. Effectively mentoring the narcissist will necessitate difficult conversations likely to trigger defensiveness in the mentee. And the narcissist may feel the need to criticize the mentor at times as a way of protecting a fragile ego.
So what’s a mentor to do? Is it worth the time and effort? Although prickly, unappreciative, and self-absorbed, a narcissistic employee might just possess subject matter expertise, technical skill, or strategic vision critical to an organization’s success. And remember, not all narcissists are created equal. Only a few are truly maniacal egotists. And there are plenty of well-intentioned leaders and organizational game-changers who occupy some location on the narcissism spectrum. And anyway, shouldn’t everyone you hire get a fair shot, including the opportunity for early career-enhancing relationships?
When (not if) you find yourself mentoring a narcissist, here are a few strategies for helping the mentee better understand and modify their self-sabotaging behavior at work:
- First, work on your empathy. Try to check any dislike of your mentee at the door. Remember, chances are your narcissistic mentee is a wounded child at heart. All the bravado and arrogance amount to little more than a front for poor self-esteem and a real fear that they are worthless at the core. Try looking beyond the inflated self-assessments and demands for special recognition and catching a glimpse of the fragile house of cards that is the narcissist’s ego. This might just stir your empathy for an interpersonally unpleasant mentee.
- Listen and discern. In building empathy, excellent mentors listen for the narcissist’s vision of who they should be. It is important to understanding how and why the narcissist feels unworthy at their core. Unlocking this hidden shame may allow the mentor to build the mentee’s self-awareness while helping them to realize their vision.
- Begin with mirroring. Here is a paradox: Narcissistic behavior often provokes others to respond with criticism and put-downs designed to put the narcissist in their place. In effect, the narcissist generates the very behavior they fear in others. Rather than fall into this pattern with your mentee, work hard at starting with affirmation, understanding, and acceptance. Referred to as mirroring, wise mentors are careful to reflect a positive appraisal of the mentee and their basic worth early on (We’re really lucky to have you here. It must be hard for you when others don’t seem to appreciate your contributions). For instance, you might initially frame arrogance and entitlement as unusual self-confidence. By mirroring back unconditional respect and acceptance of the narcissist, you might just lower defenses, thereby opening the door to some dialog and self-awareness.
- Use Socratic questions to build insight. Rather than direct confronting a mentee’s narcissistic behavior, try dispassionate Socratic questioning. If they complain that other people don’t respect them, you can ask something like, “I wonder why so many people have that reaction to you?” You can also be more specific. You might say, “I’ve observed that some people seem to think you are arrogant. Can you think of any reasons why people might see you that way?” or “Help me understand what was going through your mind when so-and-so questioned your expertise.” Such gentle but persistent queries are often a best bet when it comes to lowering defensiveness and setting the stage for personal insight and change.
- In conflict, lead with how you feel. Psychologist Bernardo Tirado reflects that when difficult conversations and confrontations are necessary with a narcissist, always lead off with how your mentee made you feel. Because the narcissist lacks empathy, such feeling-oriented disclosures can get the conversation away from who is to blame and refocused on the real problem: the mentee’s impact on other people.
- Take care of yourself. Mentoring a narcissist won’t be easy. Caring and empathic by nature, even the best mentors may feel appalled by the vivid anger and intense dislike a narcissistic mentee can engender. Some mentors suffer guilt and self-recrimination when fleeting but deeply satisfying fantasies of berating or belittling a narcissist occur. Remember that no amount of validation and admiration may truly be enough for the narcissist. To avoid burnout, set limits on the frequency of engagement with a narcissistic mentee and the number of narcissists you are willing to mentor at one time. And don’t forget to make time for good self-care, including consulting with another seasoned mentor to maintain your equilibrium.
Originally posted on https://hbr.org/2017/09/how-to-mentor-a-narcissist
A psychology professor at the U.S. Naval Academy on why professional guidance doesn’t always work out as planned.
Mentorship is often cast as a positive experience. But for every scientist whose mentor enabled a research breakthrough and every high-school student whose mentor was key to receiving a college acceptance letter, there are people whose professional relationships were counterproductive or even damaging. And despite this reality, the potential pitfalls of mentorship are not as often discussed as the benefits of it.
For The Atlantic’s series “On the Shoulders of Giants,” I spoke with W. Brad Johnson, a professor in the department of leadership, ethics, and law at the United States Naval Academy. Johnson talked about how his career came to focus on understanding mentorship, how these relationships can unravel, and what can be done to salvage them if they do. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
B.R.J. O’Donnell: What do you see as the most critical element to get right when it comes to mentorship?
W. Brad Johnson: Intentionality on both sides really matters. If there is one variable that shows if mentorship relationships are likely to take off or not, it's frequency of interaction during the first several months of the relationship. I find that very often mentors are so busy that they may notionally commit to mentoring somebody and then never follow through. And I think an absent mentor, somebody who never responds, can be profoundly toxic. It may unintentionally convey to the mentee that they are just not that worthy or important.
O’Donnell: Some would say that the mentee should just be persistent in a situation like that. When faced with a distant mentor, should they just keep pushing for a response?
Johnson: Sometimes mentees view their mentors as being so accomplished that they have trepidation about approaching them, and they are hesitant to reach out. So if both of those elements are present, what you actually have is two people who just never interact, and that isn’t mentorship.
O’Donnell: In your experience, what is the biggest source of conflict in these relationships?
Johnson: I think if expectations are not aligned, you will often get conflict. If the two parties work to align their expectations around what the relationship is going to be about, and what functions a mentor is going to provide—how they will work together, what the mentor’s role will be in the life of the mentee, and how often they meet—then this is a pitfall that can be sidestepped.
O’Donnell: When mentorship isn’t going as planned, what can improve the situation?
Johnson: Too often, in any relationship where there is dysfunction, the two people don't talk about it transparently. I would say that basic communication is essential. A mentor can avoid an awful lot of that simply by bringing up their concerns. It can be as straightforward as saying, “I've noticed that you don't drop by anymore. Am I contributing to something that's problematic? Help me understand.”
Also, self-awareness is key. If I'm a busy mentor, and I travel too much, and I don't follow through with mentees, and that leads to hard feelings, then I have to solicit that feedback. And then I have to reflect. Perhaps the way I say things or the way I communicate is tricky and off-putting. If my own personal life is not going well—maybe my primary relationship is on the rocks, and I'm getting needs met, subtly, by mentees, and that's uncomfortable for them—I've got to have self-awareness about that. I think the mentor has got to take responsibility.
O’Donnell: You’ve found romantic attraction to be a problem in some of these relationships. If someone does find themselves attracted to the person on the other side of the desk, what would you say to them?
Johnson: Occasionally, mentors have trouble with ethics and boundaries, and I know that is an issue in academia. It's certainly an issue in corporate contexts. You will find people crossing boundaries, being intrusive, folks initiating romantic relationships. And those things that take away from the focus on the mentee's career trajectory and personal development are toxic, and they can definitely lead to conflict.
I think mentors also need to come to terms with the idea that all of the things that lead to better mentoring may also lead to some attraction at times: self-disclosure, an increasingly bonded, trusting relationship, some measure of increase in warmth. Good boundaries are essential. Just like a mental-health professional might recognize that they have feelings of attraction towards a client, that doesn't give them the green light to act on those feelings. In fact, in the field, there are very clear ethical guidelines prohibiting that, and for very good reason. In my view, it’s never going to be in the best interest of the mentee to sexualize or romanticize that relationship. So I put that responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the mentor, to accept but not act on attraction.
O’Donnell: What is the most effective way to approach building these relationships, especially with people who are different from you?
Johnson: I really encourage and counsel humility, and this often comes up in the case of mentorship across differences in gender, differences in race, culture, sexual orientation. You need to be really careful about approaching someone with a different set of experiences from your own, with a sense of humility and a learning orientation. And for me, that goes beyond situations where there is conflict or dysfunction. I would say that humility is one of the hallmarks of really good mentorship in general.
Article Author: W. Brad Johnson, Ph.D.; and David Smith, Ph.D.
Whether at the boardroom table or the break room table, women are more likely to be overlooked or just plain ignored by men. Sometimes, they don’t even get a seat at the table. And when they do get a seat, their ideas and contributions are not always taken seriously. Thinking about her own early career experience at the executive table, Kathy Hannan, partner for diversity and corporate responsibility for KPMG, said, “I had been sitting around the key leadership table. At times, I would make a comment and it would get a tepid response, maybe some head nodding. Then, two or three people down the line, a male says exactly what I just said and everyone says, ‘Wow,’ and starts discussing it like it’s a new idea.” Several women interviewed for this book recounted stories in which their input was dismissed by male bosses; some felt so undervalued that they quit contributing their insights.
In the 21st century workplace, how do we make sense of these women’s experiences? When asked, men often fail to even recognize that these dismissive episodes are occurring. Our tendency as men is to unknowingly sell women at work short, largely as a by‑product of the way we have come to understand men’s and women’s roles in society. Despite the fact that there are almost twice as many women in the workforce today, by percentage, than there were in 1950, we still find persistent stereotypes about women’s roles at work and home. Automatic perceptions and assumptions that women are nurturing, warm, and communal may sound positive, yet they can be limiting and undermine women’s opportunities to compete and excel in the workplace. Our gendered perceptions make it too easy to overlook those everyday Athenas around us.
As you can surmise, our biased man perceptions about women create for them a prickly double bind. On one hand, we may perceive our female mentees as compassionate and caring nurturers, but in so doing we may be unable to envision them as the “take charge and move out” leaders we need for key projects and challenging missions. In a similar vein, men may avoid recommending women for assignments that are too challenging or “in the trenches” because we don’t see them as capable or aspiring to these tasks. Sometimes, our deeply engrained protective man scripts get triggered. When this happens, our efforts to “protect” a talented woman actually sabotage her opportunity to compete and prove herself. In our world, the U.S. military, these stereotypes reinforce the perception that women are better suited for staff or support roles than for operational “combatant” roles that lead to the higher echelons of power and leadership.
Unfortunately, the negative consequences of our man perceptions don’t end there. For instance, women who are directive and authoritative at work often get labeled “dragon ladies” and “iron bitches”; they are perceived to be coldhearted, abrasive, and bossy. As guys, we tend to steer clear of these women, often some of the most promising future leaders for our organizations and our nation. And if we find strong women noxious in some way, what does that say about our ability to see them as potential mentees? What are the chances we’ll seek them out, engage, and begin providing crucial career support? In part 2 of this guide, “Mentoring Women: A Manual for Men,” we’ll challenge you to not reinforce these unrealistic perceptions when women at work demonstrate confident, decisive, and industrious behavior.
Volumes of social psychology research reveal that men evaluate certain behaviors quite differently when exhibited by a man or a woman. If you think you judge John’s behavior the same as Jill’s—even in identical situations—you’re kidding yourself. For instance, as guys we might be comfortable with yelling at work, or give each other a pass when it happens—what dude doesn’t lose his temper on occasion? But what about a woman who yells? Well, she’s got to be overemotional or dangerous—return of the “PMSing dragon lady.” And if a woman cries, well . . . what’s new? But for a dude to cry or tear up when getting critical feedback . . . now, that’s awkward, just plain “unmanly.” Our perceptions about “appropriate” emotions create another double bind for women. If she doesn’t cry, she’s cold and emotionless. But if he is dry eyed we applaud him for controlling his emotions. Getting the picture? Women who aspire to rise through the ranks and assume leadership roles must confront persistent double binds and inconsistent standards for leadership potential.
Just as important for women at work is what men fail to perceive. The perception that women are nurturing and caring is largely based on our experience of seeing women in family roles as primary caregivers. In fact, women in general do perform more childcare and household chores than men. Evidence shows that working women are 60 percent more likely than men to have full-time working spouses. Why is this important? Because dual-career families have more challenges related to childcare and managing a household, and women in these families end up doing the lion’s share of the domestic work. And, of course, mothers are seen as less committed to their careers. This affects wages, promotions, and hiring, a de facto “motherhood penalty.” Effective male mentors must become alert to stereotypical perceptions of women in the workplace and then find strategies for mitigating their effects on the promising women they champion.
Excerpt from “Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women,” by W. Brad Johnson, Ph.D.; and David Smith, Ph.D. (reprinted with permission of Taylor & Francis Group).
Originally posted on https://trainingmag.com/perceiving-everyday-athenas
By David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson
The research is clear: women in competitive, historically male, “up-our-out” organizational cultures make more money and enjoy more rapid promotions when they are mentored by men. Excellent mentors generally provide two clusters of critical mentoring functions. Psychosocial functions include encouragement, friendship, and emotional support. Career functions include direct teaching, advocacy, coaching, visibility, and challenge. Unfortunately, evidence demonstrates that many women with male mentors get shortchanged in the challenge department, especially when compared with their male peers.
Great mentors push, dare, and confront mentees. They are persistent in challenging mentees to do and experience things they might otherwise neglect or even actively avoid. This becomes even more important considering the range of trials and tribulations that women in male-centric organizations are likely to face.
In our interviews with successful professional women, many reiterated the importance of having male mentors provide direct, critical feedback. When Navy Lieutenant, Tabitha Strobel, one of the first women assigned to a U. S. Navy submarine, reported for duty, her male mentors were deliberate about pulling no punches. She got the same tough assignments and challenging watches as her male counterparts, all of it designed to immunize her for the operational challenges ahead. It took Susan Chambers, Vice President at Walmart, some time to appreciate that her mentor’s constant challenges were a clear expression of care and commitment: “He set such high standards and expectations; he expected me to move so much faster and to achieve so much more than I ever had before. At the time, I felt it was unfair. But it’s only as I look back that I realize I wouldn’t be in my current role without it. I wouldn’t have been able to get through the difficulties I’ve been through if I had not had someone who cared and expected that much early in my career.”
Challenging mentees to take on unfamiliar or anxiety-provoking tasks is not easy, nor is it fun to confront mentees who deliberately avoid challenges or perform below potential. But such is the nature of strong mentorship. Too many men are averse to pushing their female mentees the way they push their male protégés. Why do guys put on the kid gloves with women at work? There are at least three reasons.
First, men often harbor stereotypes about women’s capacities. Men are socialized to see women as delicate, mysterious, and less capable and resilient in the face of challenge. When implicit biases about female fragility lurk in the unconscious, men tend to underestimate women’s ability to tolerate stress and respond to challenge.
Second, many men enact social scripts for relationships with women that stem from their own socialization around gender and their experience with key role models. These “manscripts” are familiar to most people — father-daughter, chivalrous knight-damsel in distress — and in many situations may be helpful in reducing male anxiety about how to interact with women they care for at work. But these scripts can backfire, leading to overprotection and unnecessary rescuing when what she really needs is a firm push to try something that scares her or firm confrontation about where she needs to pick up the pace. Reflecting on her mentoring relationships with senior men, Rohini Anand, Senior Vice President at Sodexo thought she was protected from critical feedback in ways that female mentors did not hold back: “Looking back at what they didn’t do that hindered my success, my male mentors have never really given me critical feedback. Thinking of my female mentors in my previous positions, they would give me very good feedback in terms of where I needed to improve.”
Finally, some men may avoid challenging women because they are fearful that she may become “emotional” and cry. But when male mentors back off, pulling their challenge punches, or sugarcoating the truth about her performance, they inevitably fail their mentees when it comes to preparing them for future challenges. Nowhere was this more obvious than during the integration of women into the military’s intensive survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) school. Designed to inoculate pilots against captivity and interrogation should they be captured, we heard from SERE instructors that when women began to cry during the mock interrogations, male instructors would back off. Evolution and socialization causes guys to cringe and protect when women tear up. (It’s worth noting that a lot of the men cried too; but paradoxically, male instructors became even more brutal to male “prisoners” who cried). SERE instructors now receive education and awareness to ensure women receive the same level of stress as men. Anything less would leave them disadvantaged in the crucible of combat.
So what’s a male mentor for women to do?
First, recognize that challenge and critical feedback need not be inconsistent with empathic kindness and care. In fact, the former is most effective when delivered in a relationship defined by the latter. Growth-inducing challenge is interpreted by mentees as an expression of care and commitment when mentors demonstrate empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard. According to renowned counseling psychologist Carl Rogers, empathy helps us learn to listen and understand mentees. The affirmation and inspiration born of empathy and unconditional acceptance create the solid relationship foundation in which challenging conversations can occur without triggering defensive reactions. Good corrective feedback is free of judgment and perceived attacks on a mentee’s competence.
Second, avoid pretense and be yourself with mentees. The genuine mentor inspires trust and commitment in their mentorships in part by simply being open and honest about relative shortcomings, always acknowledging the limits of one’s own knowledge and expertise. Sharing stories about our own professional stumbles along the way creates the relational bedrock of authenticity and trust that lends support when it’s time to deliver challenging feedback. In a real sense, it is a mentor’s genuine humility that affords him the right to deliver unvarnished brass-tacks feedback the mentee requires to sharpen her game and compete.
Third, unconditional regard signals to your mentee that you are all-in as a champion and ally, even when her performance flags. Rogers described unconditional regard as conveying a warm acceptance of a person’s experience, and appreciating them as valued colleague, no matter how they may be performing. To be most effective as a mentor, you must become skilled at delivering direct, transparent and meaningful feedback, but you must also do it thoughtfully. There is no room for anger and shaming in a mentoring relationship. Remember that empathy, genuineness, and unconditional regard create the trust required for growth-facilitating challenge and correction.
Last, don’t take shortcuts when it comes to challenging your mentee to tackle things she’d rather avoid. Strong mentors take the time to discern their mentees’ strengths and weaknesses. Then, they push mentees to develop and hone the skillsets required for success. Remember: inoculating your mentee for the trials and tribulations she’ll need to soar won’t always be particularly fun, but if her mentor won’t make the effort to build her immunity and resilience, who will? Although confronting a mentee’s avoidance of anxiety-inducing tasks and challenges might cause her discomfort — and sometimes, outright terror — an excellent mentor knows when to push their mentee outside their comfort zone. In the end, there simply is no substitute for exposure and experience to overcome anxiety.
Reframing difficult conversations as an obligation to mentees is a critical first step to prepare them for success. Excellent mentors who approach this obligation with moral courage and commitment will hear their mentees’ appreciation when they succeed in climbing the corporate ladder and outperform their protected and unchallenged peers.
By W. Brad Johnson and David Smith
When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said that he would never have a meal alone with a woman who was not his wife, he was invoking the well-worn “Billy Graham rule”; the evangelical leader has famously urged male leaders to “avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion.” Translation: Men should avoid spending time alone with women to whom they are not married. Graham has been known to avoid not only meals but also car and even elevator rides alone with a woman. The reason? To avoid tarnishing his reputation by either falling prey to sexual temptation or inviting gossip about impropriety.
Think Pence’s quarantine of women is unique? Consider a recent survey by National Journal in which multiple women employed as congressional staffers reported (and male colleagues confirmed) the existence of an implicit policy that only male staffers could spend time one-on-one or at after-hours events with their (male) congressmen. Cut out of key conversations, networking opportunities, professional exposure, and face time with career influencers, female staffers naturally are underrepresented in leadership positions and — not surprisingly — earn about $6,000 less annually than their male peers.
The Billy Graham — and now Mike Pence — rule is wrong on nearly every level. Lauded by some as an act of male chivalry, it is merely a 20th-century American iteration of sex segregation. When women are, in effect, quarantined, banned from solitary meetings with male leaders, including prospective sponsors and career champions, their options for advancement, let alone professional flourishing, shrink. The more that men quarantine women, excluding them from key meetings, after-hours networking events, and one-on-one coaching and mentoring, the more that men alone will be the ones securing C-suite jobs. The preservation of men and the exclusion of women from leadership roles will be perpetuated everywhere that the Billy Graham rule is practiced. Score another one for the old boys’ club.
Whether codified or informal, sex quarantines are rooted in fear. At the heart of it, policies curbing contact between men and women at work serve to perpetuate the notions that women are toxic temptresses, who want to either seduce powerful men or falsely accuse them of sexual harassment. This framing allows men to justify their anxiety about feeling attracted to women at work, and, sometimes, their own sexual boundary violations. It also undermines the perceived validity of claims by women who have been harassed or assaulted. Although thoughtful professional boundaries create the bedrock for trust, collegiality, and the kind of nonsexual intimacy that undergirds the best mentoring relationships, fear-based boundaries are different. By reducing or even eliminating cross-sex social contact, sex segregation prevents the very exposure that reduces anxiety and builds trust.
To build closer, anxiety-free working relationships with members of the opposite sex, thoughtful men will be well-served by having more, not less, interaction with women at work. In a classic series of studies, psychologist Robert Zajonc discovered that repeated exposure to a stimulus (such as a gender group) that previously elicited discomfort and anxiety helped reduce anxiety, and actually increased the probability of fondness and positive interaction. Termed the mere exposure effect in social psychology, the principle has been particularly useful in changing negative attitudes about previously stigmatized groups. Excellent leaders initiate positive developmental and collegial interactions with as many types of people as they can — deliberately, frequently, and transparently.
Perhaps the most disingenuous and deceptive quality of the Billy Graham rule and other forms of sex segregation at work may be their superficially honorable and chivalrous nature. This “benevolent sexism” includes evaluations of women that appear subjectively positive but are quite damaging to gender equity. In their pioneering research on the topic, psychologists Peter Glick and Susan Fiske discovered that women often endorse many benevolent forms of sexism (e.g., that women are delicate and require protection, or that sex quarantines at work help preserve women’s reputations), despite the fact that the sexism inhibits real gender equality. This may explain why many women applauded Pence’s stance as evidence of his character and commitment to his marriage. But sexism always diminishes and disadvantages women at work; even benevolent sexist policies, which lack transparent hostility and appear “nice” on the surface, lead to lower rates of pay and promotion, regardless of how many women support them.
Here is something most men fail to consider when invoking sex quarantines at work: What does their unwillingness to be seen alone with a woman say about them and males more generally? When a man refuses to be alone with a female colleague on a car trip or in a restaurant, owing to fear of something untoward happening, we must ask: Dude, do you, or do you not, have a functioning frontal lobe? Sex quarantines reinforce notions that men are barely evolved sex maniacs, scarcely capable of muting, let alone controlling, their evolved neurological radar for fertile mates of the opposite sex. Sex quarantines paint men as impulsive, sexually preoccupied, and unable to refrain from consummating romantic interest or sexual feelings if they occur in cross-sex relationships. The “sex-crazed” male stereotype is often reinforced in the process of male socialization, and there are plenty of men who, at least on some level, fear breaking rank and violating these expectations of male behavior. This is where moral courage comes in. The fact is, many men choose not to fulfill this stereotype; many men have close, mutual, collegial relationships with women and never once violate a relational boundary.
Of course, the Billy Graham rule and other efforts at quarantining women suffer from a number of logical inconsistencies. For instance, there is the efficacy problem: Rigid efforts to eliminate cross-sex interaction in the workplace have not proven effective. Even in the most conservative religious denominations, nearly one-third of pastors have crossed sexual boundaries with parishioners. Then there is the uncomfortable truth that the Billy Graham rule denies the reality of LGBT people and that sexual and romantic feelings are not limited to cross-sex relationships. The logic of sex quarantine thinking would dictate that a bisexual leader could never meet alone with anyone! Finally, the truth is that sex-excluding policies are rooted in deeply erroneous dichotomous thinking: Either I engage with women at work and risk egregious, career-threatening boundary violations or I avoid all unchaperoned interaction with women.
So what’s an evolved male leader to do? In the simplest terms, become what we call a thoughtful caveman. Healthy, mature, self-aware men understand and accept their distinctly male neural architecture. If they happen to be heterosexual, this means they own the real potential for cross-sex attraction without catastrophizing this possibility or acting out feelings of attraction, to the detriment of female colleagues. Thoughtful cavemen employ their frontal cortex to ensure prudence and wise judgment in relationships with women and men.
Here is a final reason why even devoutly Christian men like Mike Pence and Billy Graham should be dubious about isolating and excluding women at work: Jesus himself was known to meet alone with women (e.g., the Samaritan woman at the well). It seems that showing kind hospitality and elevating the dignity of women was more important than any threat of gossip.
Originally posted on https://hbr.org/2017/05/men-shouldnt-refuse-to-be-alone-with-female-colleagues
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