If you think back over your career, how many mentors do you think helped get you to where you are today? And was it significant that they were men or women?
There is a lot written about the need for women to be supported, encouraged, treated equally and offered flexibility. I am a million per cent behind and encouraged by all of this, but I am also aware that to get there, we all need to power up – both men and women – and encouraged to do so equally.
I was honoured recently to present my first Ted Talk. It was a big moment for me to be stood in front of those infamous red letters to speak about something I am very passionate about – how we can all power up for a more harmonious and successful future.
This got my thinking about an article a few months ago in The Telegraph which spoke about mentoring and the shifting relationship between the male mentor and the female mentee – sadly for the worse.
In light of the #MeToo movement, there is understandable wariness of workplace relationships, mainly between men and women and especially when the male is in the senior role. However, according to this article, 60% of male managers have stated that they feel uncomfortable mentoring a younger woman – a figure that is up 32% from the previous year and this saddens me.
So what’s going on here, are women not trusting men and vice versa? Are we seriously entering into an age of paranoia where both men and women are missing out on incredibly important mentor / mentee relationships because of fear? This seems like madness to me.
Looking back at my own career and careers of many people I know, significant opportunities have stemmed from being championed by key people and I will be forever grateful for relationships with senior leaders who nurtured and supported me, encouraged me to progress in my career and helped me to make invaluable contacts within my industry. Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am today without this support from these figures, both male and female (and if you’re reading this, you know who you are!). I’ve also been fortunate enough to mentor a number of people, which has been a hugely enriching experience and the thought of gender didn’t cross my mind for a second.
For many young women starting their career, the leadership team is predominantly male in many sectors. Their ascent of the, sometimes wobbly career ladder, will be serious impacted if for whatever reason, mentoring relationships are being blocked, for anyone, whatever their gender. That just doesn’t seem fair to anyone involved and will seriously impact one of the biggest outcomes we’re aiming for – gender equality in the workplace.
That is why the onus is on all of us to encourage and showcase the power of mentoring and for respectful, trusting and authentic relationships between mentor and mentee to be formed and encouraged. If they are not, both parties will miss out terribly and the next generation of leaders will not have access to the invaluable knowledge, encouragement and support that we should all have a right to.
Antoinette’s new book, Power Up, is being launched in November 2019. Her TEDx will go live in the autumn.