Why, as a man, you should commit to mentor a woman

Mentoring is a proven way of unblocking the diversity pipeline. A study reported in the Harvard Business Review found that formal mentoring problems boost representation of women and minorities in management by 9 – 24% on average.

When you’re full on at work, though, it can be hard to make time for someone else’s career on top of your own.


What’s in it for me?

So what’s the benefit for you if you’re considering mentoring someone?

First up, don’t think of mentoring as a one-way street. Imagine the competitive advantage of hearing the fresh perspectives and ideas from a younger employee, one-on-one. Ports of Auckland General Manager Diane Edwards, who we recently spoke to about becoming an inadvertent role model, advocates the benefits of the company’s 360˚ Mentorship Programme.

If you’re in the second half of your career, mentorship is also the perfect opportunity to consider your legacy. While it may sound fluffy, you have the potential to change someone’s life – no small achievement.


Why now?

Mentorship and sponsorship are crucial for career development and to open doors. We know that women get less of the mentorship and sponsorship that open doors than their male peers. Women are 24% less likely than men to get advice from senior leaders.

The #MeToo movement has made significant waves for women in the workplace. Unfortunately, though, it has also had unintended side effects. Almost half of male managers are now uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together. The number of male managers who are uncomfortable mentoring women has more than tripled from 5% to 16%. This means that 1 in 6 male managers may now hesitate to mentor a woman.

Now more than ever, we need men working with—and mentoring—women.


How do I get started?

Many companies have structured mentoring programmes internally. Speak to your HR team about the opportunities at your business.

If you are a member of a professional body, this is another great place to start. IT Professionals, HRINZ, PRINZ and others all have programmes in place.

If you are happy to mentor someone outside of your company or profession, visit Business Mentors New Zealand, a not-for-profit organisation supporting small businesses by working with volunteer mentors.


Mentorship is critical to career success, but women and minorities are less likely to receive this kind of guidance. We need to rectify this imbalance of power. If more men mentor women, we will move closer to a business world as diverse as New Zealand itself, improving social and economic prosperity for all New Zealanders.



Harvard Business Review; https://hbr.org/2016/07/why-diversity-programs-fail
George F. Dreher and Taylor H. Cox Jr., “Race, gender, and opportunity: A study of compensation attainment and the establishment of mentoring relationships,” Journal of Applied Psychology 81, no. 3 (1996): 297–308, http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1996-04951-007.
LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, Women in the Workplace 2017