CNBC reports 60% of men are afraid to mentor their female employees.
Unfortunately, the belief that coaching female employees is potentially dangerous has become more pronounced as headline grabbing names reporting #MeToo hit the news feeds daily.
So where does this leave women as they try to climb the corporate ladder without willing mentors? The F word would suffice as your answer- as in Falling. Falling off the corporate ladder.
According to the American Society for Training and Development, 70% of fortune 500 companies have formal and informal mentoring programs. Clearly, investing in employee development matters both for your culture and for the future of your bottom line.
Here are 7 ways to mentor both sexes wisely.
1. Create a formalized assigned partnership for each employee from day one.
Assigning junior employees with non direct line mentors accelerates the development of future leaders. This also keeps corner office executives in touch with the next generation and fosters a healthy and current culture environment versus outdated and out of touch toxic ones. Currently, 24% of female employees are less likely than men to get advice from senior leaders. Good leaders don’t allow a quarter of their employees to go under-developed. Develop a formal plan of action and put it in writing.
2. Conduct your business in public.
Don’t meet for late dinners, don’t meet in your hotel room, and certainly don’t pick someone up from their home. Instead, have an early breakfast meeting, meet for lunch, sit in a coffee shop, or even better meet in the office during business hours. If you’re in sales, do your pre call preps and post call recaps in the lobby. This is a smart tactic with all of your employees because #Metoo situations happen to both sexes.
3. Keep alcohol to zero.
Yes, a glass of wine or two fingers of whisky might seem social, but is it really worth the risk of using poor judgement, being falsely accused by someone or having one of your work nemesis take the opportunity to remark that you were tying one on? The potential cost simply outweighs the pleasure of cocktails if you’re with someone you’re mentoring. Stick with something non-alcoholic and ask yourself, does alcohol really add anything positive to your mentoring in today’s environment?
4. Mind your first interview manners forever.
Sounds simple but it’s remarkable how often managers get too informal with employees over time. It doesn’t matter if she acts like one of the guys, she’s not. Equal pay and equal opportunity are not interchangeable with poor manners. A woman is acutely aware of when you cross the line because men have been crossing the line with her since she hit puberty. Your safest bet is to treat her like you’re on a first interview. No off color jokes, no personal questions, no foul language, no touching beyond a handshake (if she’s a hugger, give a high five with a smile), and no inappropriate meeting times or places.
5. Follow your gut.
Your gut got you to where you are today and it will continue to protect you going forward if you listen closely. If you sense an attraction to a direct line female employee (it happens) or your gut tells you there might be a problem, limit your one on one exposure time. If you’re mentoring an outside sales rep, keep drive time conversations on strategy and call preps. Limit text and calls outside of work hours. Stay in your first interview mindset with languaging. Above all, do not make it her problem, but do be proactive.
6. Open communication now negates problems later.
Check in. Tell your female employee she’s valued and foster an open channel of communication from day one and follow through. How’s it going questions should go both ways. When you offer constructive criticism and compliments, ask your employee what’s working and what they would like you to improve. Great leaders aren’t afraid of honest feedback, they seek it.
7. Would you say it to a man?
If you wouldn’t say it to a male co-worker, simply don’t say it. While everyone loves an authentic compliment, noting a woman’s appearance in today’s environment can be risky. If you wouldn’t tell a male co-worker he looks nice today, or his arms are looking fit, don’t say it to a woman. It’s unfortunate that we’ve come to this, but arguing with the way things are leads to trouble.
And the take away besides don’t be creepy?
According to LeanIn.org, “Sexual harassment is twice as common in male dominated organizations as it is in female dominated organizations”
There’s no question women are underrepresented at senior levels, but when mentored by male leaders, they rise to positions of leadership. Well balanced organizations have less likelihood of harassment issues, healthier cultures, and better employee retainment numbers. According to Forbes Magazine, the McKinsey report showed companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 15% more likely to experience above-average profits. The latest data shows that likelihood has grown to 21%.
The #MeToo movement isn’t going away, but your personal liability can with the right game plan. Mentoring female employees is good for business and good for your bottom line.
So now, what’s been your experience? Have you mentored a woman? Been mentored by a man? What did you like, what would you improve? I’d love to see your comments in the section below.
About the Author: Tamara Star is a 27 year industry veteran and founder of TStar Recruiting – a nationwide recruiting firm. Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Yahoo News, Sirius XM radio and LinkedIN.