Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Let’s define some things so we are all on the same page before we begin.
What is mentoring?
Mentoring is a journey of shared discovery.
Mentoring is a positive, supportive relationship, encouraging someone to develop to their fullest potential through sharing knowledge and experience.
Mentoring is a great relationship built on a solid foundation that has the potential to deliver a positive impact on people in a variety of personal, academic and professional situations.
Mentoring connects an individual to personal growth and development and improved social and economic opportunity.
Mentoring is about creating and nurturing a transformational relationship that changes both individuals.
Yes, all of these!
So, what is diversity?
Diversity is everything that we are and that we are not.
Diversity is not defined by numbers, quotas or statistics.
Diversity includes all the differences which we all have that make us unique, whether it is our race, color, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, nationality, language, age, or physical and mental ability.
Diversity is a business strategy that leads to a better bottom line.
Absolutely, the strategy of creating a diverse workforce is proven to lead to better business results.
Ok, now why does mentoring get us one step closer to diversity of thought?
The goal of mentoring is to match two individuals so that over their relationship they each gain skills, knowledge and most importantly, a new perspective. The real impact however is seen beyond the goals met and objectives achieved.
The real impact exists in the personal exchange between the individuals.
When mentoring is successful, true relationships are created, but another outcome is the promotion of diversity both within organizations and society as a whole. The intangible skills that individuals gain during these relationships like self-confidence, communication skills and being realistic when evaluating your own performance are the result of this diversity.
But can mentoring really promote diversity?
If you connect people that are different then you are promoting diversity. Mentoring is the most effective for this when the matching is done for the individuals, rather than allowing mentees to choose their own mentors.
Inclusion and mentoring may seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, because inclusion focuses on the differences in individuals while traditional mentoring focuses on matching individuals based on their similarities.
This is where traditional mentoring programs are missing out on a great opportunity.
The matching process is crucial to the success of a mentoring program, and the relationships that are established as a result. It’s typical for individuals to connect with and seek out people like themselves and therefore if they choose their mentor, they will likely choose someone like them. This type of match does not create the environment that is required to form a transformational relationship.
Having two individuals in a mentoring relationship who were matched based on their differences requires each person to work harder to truly understand one another. This is where diversity of thought comes in, where they begin to think differently and are challenged by each other to expand their minds. Individuals will ask more questions and even challenging questions that they would not have asked of someone more like themselves. The diversity of thought between them can open their minds to new solutions through discovering each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
As time passes, these differences will become the foundation for a culture of diverse voices in an organization and society overall.
Solving this problem will not happen overnight and mentoring is no silver bullet. It needs time to establish relationships, grow individuals and change mindsets. This is why it is critical to start the effort now. As you establish a mentoring program, you build support for the next generation of mentees and cultivate an environment open to different perspectives.
What are we doing now to help solve this problem?
We had such an amazing response from our mentors and our mentees in our spring pilot mentoring program with the University of New Hampshire College of Engineering & Physical Sciences that we are doing it again!
We will launch a full program for the 2019-2020 academic year this December that will match over 30 undergraduate students with industry mentors. Our matching process is focused on the goals of the students but also on creating space for a transformational relationship for the length of the program and beyond.
We are excited to start recruiting mentors and mentees for our program and create lasting relationships that will have real impact.
Interested in being considered as a mentor? Apply today!