Within any organisation, mentoring is quickly emerging as an incredibly powerful way in which organisational diversity can be encouraged. This is particularly true where there is a need to create greater cross-group understanding whilst ensuring the minority and disadvantaged groups are supported. Unfortunately, mentoring between those groups that are rather unique comes with its own issues.
Define the purpose of your mentoring program
It is important to be clear about the purpose of any program you set up. This is especially the case when it comes to “diversity” mentoring. If your program is simply to support a particular group, then it may be unclear exactly what is going on.
Know your audience
The last thing you want is for your well intentioned leads to create unintentional insults. It is important that your mentoring program does not devalue the group it was hoping to support. Make sure you understand the perspective of those you want to support.
Ensure your program is an opt in one
In order for a mentoring program to be successful it is essential that those involved want to be there. This is very important for a diversity mentoring program or a cross group one where you need individuals to listen to and understand varying different perspectives.
Quality over quantity
Your program, no matter how well intentioned, should be limited with regards to the number of good mentors that you have available. It can be tempting to try to fit in any many diverse individuals as possible. However, if you don’t have the right ratios you will not be able to offer the quality of mentoring that you would like.
Same or different groups?
There is a lot of discussion that looks at the values of having mentees and mentors from the same or different diversities. There are advantages to both. Within a group of like individuals, there is more likely to be great rapport and empathy. However, within different groups you are more like to find a greater degrees of cross-cultural understanding which may be more beneficial. Much of how you decide to do this will depend on the purpose you have already defined.
Unfortunately, mentoring programs cannot just happen. It is important for everyone involved to receive training so that there is value to the mentoring that takes place. For diversity training, this means that everyone involved should be fully aware of all of the diversity issues that may come up. They must be able to foster a caring and sensitive approach to how they handle these issues. That way, you can ensure that the best results are created through the mentoring process.
Finally, and possibly one of the biggest barriers in diversity mentoring, stereotyping can be a real issue. Within a same group, the sharing of these stereotypes may go unquestioned. This can be the case even though this can be the biggest barrier to success. It is important to assure that assumptions are not being made and that stereotypes are acknowledged and discussed. Additionally, mentors must have the training to discuss honestly the role that stereotypes have in terms of mentoring.