Mentoring: Can it Increase the Gender Balance in the workplace?
What do we mean when we talk about gender balance in the workplace? Consider this working definition: Gender balance is about ensuring that there are equitable opportunities for individuals notwithstanding their gender, including equitable access to employment, compensation benefits, and developmental opportunities across all sectors of an organization. Other than improving the rights and quality of life for 50 percent of the population, a report also shows that improving gender balance in the workplace could have added an additional $12 trillion to global GDP from 2015 to 2025. In every way, we literally cannot afford to continue with gender disparity in the workforce. Mentoring is one way to bridge the gap in gender inequality at work.
Being mentored gives anyone the benefit of being more prepared and skilled in their field, and mentorship has proven to be invaluable in progressing an individual’s career. Already being at a disadvantage in the workplace, it’s crucial that women find mentors who can help them break barriers and improve on certain skills that they don’t tend to learn as early as their male counterparts, like negotiation. In fact, studies show that female mentees do indeed get insights into organizational politics and access to knowledge that is typically provided in the “old boys network.” Women also leave the workplace in greater numbers, resulting in less productivity and engagement. Reasons for exiting the workplace could include lower pay and decreased potential for upward mobility. Especially after having children, it’s often a “logical” choice for the woman earning less money to leave work to care for the children. With mounting childcare costs, many women may feel that they save money by staying at home. The Covid 19 pandemic saw many women scaling back or leaving the workforce for many of these reasons. A study showed the number of women exiting could be as high as 1 in 3. Mentoring can provide a solid foundation to help women face gender specific obstacles to progress in their careers.
More interesting, is research showing that women mentoring men can benefit not only both parties, but society as a whole. Women mentoring men leads to more empathy, cooperation, and exposure to the other gender in the workplace. Prejudiced beliefs can be discarded when employees see each other just as people, working towards a common goal. Women mentoring other junior female colleagues can also help bridge the gap by providing inspiration and insights into how to move up in male dominated fields like tech or engineering. Seeing more women in roles and positions typically assigned to men can help junior women realize they have more options than they think. Since mentors also become known as leaders in their community and workplace, mentoring others may also help women get promoted through their leadership.