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Reverse mentoring, sharing and bringing the blokes along on the journey

Last week I met with a long-time mentor of mine who’s definitely a Good Guy.  Tony and I met on a consulting project, he was on the client side and I was external but still he became a mentor.  I went on to take a number of roles in that organisation and over the years we’ve stayed in touch sporadically.  It’s one of those informal mentoring arrangements where I’d call on him for help with specific issues as they arose.

It was a welcome surprise when his text message popped up on my iPhone a couple of weeks back, suggesting that we meet.  This time though, the tables had turned and it was Tony who was seeking advice.  This was a reverse mentoring session: we were meeting so Tony could ask my advice on gender diversity and the approach he should take in his company since he’d been appointed to his company’s Diversity Council.

To use Tony’s words, he didn’t know where to begin and I think this is so often the case with the Good Guys in business.  They can see the problem, they see the impact its having on their teams and on the bottom line, and they want to get involved in fixing it.  They often just don’t know how.

The thing is, good intentions will get you so far; but there’s nothing like having skin in the game to make change happen.  Take parenting policies, for example.  Before I had my own son, I’d managed dozens of women who’d taken maternity leave at various times.  I thought I had a good insight into the impact parenting had on their careers.  But you don’t know what you don’t know.  Basically, I saw that parents needed time off work following the birth.  And then I had my son.  I now know that parenting is a bit more complex than that.  Pregnancies can be difficult and can involve extensive time off work, before the baby is even born.  Then when the baby arrives there’s no one-size-fits-all to parental leave – or anything to do with parenting for that matter!  And I now know that I will never again truly own my time in the way that I used to, so last minute schedule changes are tricky.  Until I’d had a child of my own I was interested in the impact of parenting on women; now I’m invested and I’ve got skin in the game.

It’s a bit like that with men and gender diversity programs.  When we met, Tony recalled a meeting he attended where he was the only male at the table.  It was difficult, he said, to communicate effectively.  The rhythm of the meeting was different to what he was used to.  But it gave him a good insight to what women in the reverse situation experience. Catching up with me and a number of women in his business, just to hear their stories and experiences, has given him further insights.  He’s hoping to shape this into a real investment in improving the number of women at the top in his business.  I know that he’ll succeed in this.

Tony is an outlier because he’s making it his job to find out what needs to be done.  But there’s a lot that we can do to help others to help us get ahead in our careers. If they don’t have first hand knowledge, we can give them insights that can shape their opinions and get them on board.  And on a practical level, here are 3 easy things that can get the men in your organisation up to speed:


  • Offer to reverse mentor your male colleagues.  Give them some insights into what it’s like being a woman in your business.  Share some of your experiences and what they’ve meant for you.  Offer advice on what you think could be improved.
  • Be a source of knowledge.  Forward information like this article – and the sphinxx website – to your male and female colleagues and especially your boss so they can stay ahead of the curve and access quality information about advancing women as leaders.
  • Bring a bloke along to Ascend You might be thinking, why?  But I think we should start with embracing the Good Guys into our fold.  Yes, they will be significantly out-numbered by women – which will give them a taste of what that’s like – and they’ll also get some insights into the way women work and some of the obstacles women face in forging their careers. Every woman that brings a Good Guy along to Ascend will receive a free copy of The Modern Woman’s Anthology.



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