Why Diversity and Inclusion Matters
Many organizations have come to recognize the impact of mentorship on advancing diversity and fostering inclusivity. But companies that want more diversity will need to mentor and sponsor more diversely. Mentoring, after all, helps employees develop a sense of belonging which is important to building a diverse and inclusive culture.
For companies, the key is to create a company culture in which team members feel individually recognized, valued and committed while working toward common goals. That can be accomplished through mentoring initiatives focused on enriching relationships between cultural groups. On an individual basis, sponsorship is also equally important, wherein a sponsor takes an active role in championing a high-potential employee for growth opportunities within the organization.
The Value of Sponsorship and Mentoring
While a mentor speaks with their mentee and shares from their invaluable learning, a sponsor speaks about their sponsee behind closed doors and champions him or her to others. Sponsors have a dramatic influence on an individual’s career advancement, company succession plans and elevating diverse leaders. Unfortunately, not all high-potential employees have equitable access to sponsors, and most leaders tend to mentor and sponsor in their own likeness. Research from McKinsey, the Center for Talent Innovation and the Boston Consulting Group have all shown that people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals and other under-represented groups often lack sponsors. Formal sponsorship programs engineer and ensure access to internal champions for high-potential employees. Simultaneously, these initiatives also help executives build their leadership skills and living legacies.
In a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, “Why Diversity Programs Fail,” authors Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev reported on the impact of mentoring, training, self-managed teams, diversity task forces and diversity managers on the representation of African American, Hispanic and Asian men and women at the manager level. The researchers found that mentoring had the largest impact of all strategies, resulting in an increase of representation of minorities at the manager level by 9 to 24 percent.
A 2018 McKinsey study, Delivering Through Diversity, found gender diversity on executive teams is highly correlated with profitability and value creation. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21-percent more likely to outperform on profitability and 27-percent more likely to have superior value creation.
Women and minorities usually connect better with their mentors through formal mentoring programs. Formal programs offer an established, credible and supported way to mentor women and minorities. The most effective mentoring programs provide training on how to have healthy boundaries in mentoring relationships and the role of unconscious bias in the workplace. Even so, numerous companies rely on informal mentorship.
Although a lot of progress has been made, LeanIn.Org disclosed in the article, “Men, Commit to Mentor Women” in 2019 that one in six male managers feels uncomfortable mentoring women. Thirty-six percent of men surveyed claimed that they have avoided mentoring or socializing with a woman at work because they were nervous about how it would look.
Deloitte’s 2014 report, From Diversity to Inclusion: Shift from Compliance to Diversity as a Business Strategy, says that even though diversity programs have been around for decades, most companies still do not have a highly inclusive workplace. Deloitte’s research uncovered that companies want to shift from diversity as a program to diversity and inclusion as a business strategy. According to Deloitte, diversity is the measure and inclusion is the mechanism. High-performing organizations recognize that the aim of diversity is not just meeting compliance targets but tapping into the diverse perspectives and approaches each individual employee brings to the workplace. A diverse workforce is a company’s lifeblood, and diverse perspectives and approaches are the only means of solving complex and challenging business issues. Moving beyond diversity to focus on inclusion as well requires companies to examine how fully the organization embraces new ideas, accommodates different styles of thinking, creates a more flexible work environment, enables people to connect and collaborate, and encourages different types of leaders.
Julie Silard Kantor is the founder and CEO of Twomentor, a high-impact training and development company focused on talent strategies for a diverse workforce.
This article appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.