What difference does gender make and what should you do about it, if anything? There has been a great body of research done related to women and men, their leadership skills, their tendencies, and the value they bring to organizations. Mentoring has been shown to have a great impact on the effectiveness of the leadership of both genders. Here we bring you some best practices for mentoring across gender.
Listening: Promote active listening. When you take the time to really hear each other, it not only builds understanding but also builds a relationship at the same time. Stronger relationships withstand challenges much more effectively.
Mentoring: Cross-gender mentoring relationships are a great place to practice clear communication across gender lines. You can learn from even tense interactions, which, when discussed and infused with respect, also help build respectful, productive relationships. Group mentoring can make the best use of the fewer women in top positions who can mentor.
"Mentoring is a tool by which women are given access to opportunities and exposure to traditional and alternative models of success." Stacey Blake-Beard
Stereotyping: Don't let gender stereotypes become self-fulfilling prophecies. Not everyone fits a strict gender stereotype. Things like personality, corporate culture, and upbringing influence behavior. View each person as someone from whom you can learn. This will keep you focused on being curious rather than boxing someone in.
Empowerment: Promote self-confidence through a true appreciation for what both men and women have to uniquely offer. Support the empowerment of all instead of traditional power-dependent hierarchies. Understand the power of being part of an accepting group. Help men and women find ways to grow and contribute to the organization.
Affirm the contributions of women. Where is collaboration working well and promoting synergies in innovative organizations? Where has relational power worked to further organizational goals? Highlight where a woman's specific leadership skill set fits into the success of the company.
Affirm the contributions of men as well and the cross-gender work that is contributing to the bottom line. Base leadership development and promotions on capability, not gender, while recognizing that both women and men both bring unique skills and attributes to the table.
Make sure mentoring moves toward organizational goals, not just the enhancement of women. Show visible support for female leadership, developing them in practice and in real job situations, not separately.
If organizations reach a critical mass of women in leadership, then women will be evaluated for their skills, not their gender. About a third seems to be what is needed. Ten percent is noteworthy, 20% still remains the exception, and 30% stops being unusual.
"Women leaders who are not at peace with their identities or confident in the choices they have made can doubt themselves to the point that they tear down others in an effort to boost their own worth." Nancy Beach
Integration: It will help your women and men if you promote the integration of quality of life and work/family initiatives into the workplace. They will be able to bring all of who they are to all of what is going on at work. They will not have to change roles or silo their lives and efforts, which will aid in their overall productivity.
Appreciate differences: Know your strengths as a woman or a man, and work with them. Stop debating and blaming. Work on solutions together. Create a collaborative environment where teamwork and joint decision-making is respected. Use more of a process decision-making model where differences are appreciated and discussed first, and decisions made second.