How Mentorships Break Down Diversity & Inclusion Barriers

Throughout this article, we talk about how mentoring programs can be used to break down barriers to diversity and inclusion.

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Mentorships are important for helping people grow personally and professionally. They can provide opportunities for people to build new skills, gain confidence, and improve their communication abilities. They can also be beneficial in other ways, such as helping to break down diversity and inclusion barriers.

Companies and individuals can benefit in a number of ways from mentorship programs. Organisations that have struggled with creating a more diverse environment might want to consider starting their own mentoring program to break down barriers, promote understanding, and improve inclusion.

What are the Barriers to Diversity and Inclusion?

A lack of diversity is a problem within so many organisations worldwide. Despite growing awareness of the issue, disproportionately few women and people of colour are being hired for high-level managerial and business roles. Some of the barriers that can come up for companies trying to improve their workforce’s diversity include:

• Implicit biases, especially during the hiring and promotion processes
• Small talent pool, partially due to educational inequities
• Difficulty attracting diverse candidates
• Not knowing where to look for diverse candidates
• A toxic work environment or work culture
• Lack of support for employees of diverse backgrounds
• A lack of incentive to make meaningful changes

While there are many factors affecting this ongoing problem, there are also many ways to tackle it. Mentorships can play an important role in improving diversity and making workplaces more inclusive.

Help People Feel Welcome and Supported

Many organisations with diverse hiring initiatives that succeed in hiring people from a range of backgrounds ultimately have trouble retaining these employees. Their work culture isn’t inclusive, resulting in employees who don’t “fit in” quitting because they don’t feel comfortable and supported.

By setting up new employees with mentorships, organisations can help ensure that new hires have the support they need to feel included in the ecosystem of the workplace. Mentors will feel responsible for helping their mentees feel welcome, which results in a more inclusive environment.

Increase Diversity in Management

To create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, it’s important to have diversity represented at all levels of an organisation. It’s not enough to hire people from different backgrounds; they need to have the chance to advance, grow, and be part of the decision-making.

One 2016 study showed that mentorship increases the number of minority employees in managerial roles by 9-24%, making it more effective than other diversity and inclusion tactics organisations use. Over time, increasing the diversity of an organisation’s management team can improve decision-making and overall success.

Create Skill-Building Opportunities

Mentorships help people build their careers. One important aspect of this is skill-building. This is important for employees from diverse backgrounds who might not have had the opportunity to build some of these key skills and might be passed over because of it.

A mentor can help identify skill-building opportunities and provide support as their mentee works on those skills. Ultimately, this can lead to employees moving up within the company, increasing their competency, and improving company loyalty.

Promote Better Communication and Understanding

Many issues in the workplace stem from communication problems or a lack of understanding. Mentorships help to break down communication barriers by increasing the need for one-on-one communication. Mentoring can also help bring the concept of inclusive language into the workplace.

Mentors and mentees get to know each other over time and learn how the other communicates. This can help to prevent misunderstandings and promote more understanding and sensitivity among employees. Exposure to different perspectives and experiences generally makes people more open-minded and tolerant, which is critical for increasing diversity and creating an inclusive work environment.

Consider Different Mentorship Structures

Different kinds of mentorship can all be used to improve diversity and inclusion. Traditional mentorships, which involve a more experienced employee mentoring a younger or newer employee can be an important tool, but there are other options as well.

Reverse mentorship, which is when a newer employee mentors a more experienced employee, can help increase understanding, help avoid employees getting “set in their ways” and upend the normal power dynamics in the workplace. Mentorship circles, which are essentially group mentoring, can also be a powerful tool for improving inclusion.

Mentorship Programs are a Win-Win for Employees and Organisations

Mentorship offers many benefits. As long as you create a program that promotes inclusion instead of exclusion and helps support employees, you’re likely to see that mentoring makes your business stronger.

Diversity makes organisations more profitable. With a mentorship program, you’ll be more likely to retain diverse employees, improve your company culture, and increase your bottom line!

This article was guest written by Andrew Deen.

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