Seek out mentors who are different from you

For the most part, people who are drawn to you probably possess more qualities that are similar to yours than those that are different. Similarly, mentors tend to gravitate towards mentees who remind them of themselves when they were younger, and as a result are inclined to believe in these mentees’ potential than those that are different from them.

"Lionesses, do not shy away from seeking mentors who are different from you as this will benefit you a great deal"

Business owners and leaders can benefit by listening to people who think differently as they often bring some of the team’s most innovative ideas. Recognize that your strength as a business comes from your diversity as we are stronger in our differences than we are in our similarities. In fact, gender and cultural differences can foster greater mutual growth for both mentors and mentees.

Research shows that mandatory diversity training doesn’t necessarily get rid of inherent bias in people as the training may be deemed as a coerced legislative or business requirement; hence most of the diversity programs haven’t really produced the desired results. Essentially, companies increase diversity when they forego the control tactics and frame their efforts more positively. The most effective diversity programs are the ones that encourage engagement and increase contact among different groups.

I recently mentored someone who doesn’t fit the mould of a typical candidate I tend to mentor because he is Afrikaans, a former rugby player, tough and has an intimidating stature and disposition. I was actually surprised that he approached me. Nonetheless, the mentorship relationship has been an incredible lesson for both of us as we got to understand our individual idiosyncrasies and dynamics; the relationship has been mutually beneficial in so many ways.

So, mentorship is one of the modalities that can be used to improve diversity in organizations, especially when the mentor willingly participates in the process because it chips away at biases.

As a result of the mentor’s exposure to new experiences, his or her emotional intelligence and sensitivity improves. Over time through the mentorship relationship, the mentor starts to see the mentee’s true potential and merits for opening doors of opportunities irrespective of whether they are women, young or from a different race.

So, as mentors we have to make concerted efforts to take on mentees who are different from us. Similarly Lionesses, do not shy away from seeking mentors who are different from you as this will benefit you a great deal; in turn it will enable male mentors to have a better understanding of the challenges and obstacles women face in business.