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Are Male Execs too Chicken to Mentor Young Women?


According to a study in 2010 by the Center for Talent Innovation (FKA the Center for Work-Life Policy), nearly two-thirds of men in senior positions and half of junior female employees, were nervous about and avoided one-on-one contact with each other out of fear of being accused of some sort of sexual interest or affair. Is it true that we have turned into a society that cannot work together because of the fear that someone will be accused of making a move on their co-workers?

Kate Ashford, checked with high-powered men and women and found that male executives do worry about how their relationships with younger women appear to co-workers. Some are even afraid of having to defend themselves against allegations of sex discrimination and/or harassment. Yet, other male execs said that they had no problem mentoring younger employees, male or female, and admitted that this fear could possibly prevent women from opportunities that lead to higher positions. 

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For employees and executives who are aware that there’s really no getting around mentoring people of the opposite gender, The Center for Talent Innovation offers a few tips.

Set a Routine

When meeting with mentors or mentees, set a routine at regular times in regular places and it’s less likely people will get the wrong idea.

Do Not Meet In Secret Locations

If possible, meet in public. Coffee shops and the cafeteria are okay; locked offices with the blinds closed, are not.

Put Family First

If you have a family or children it’s a good idea to mention them. This lets people know that you already have a life outside of work and are not some lonely soul whose only companionship is whomever happens to be at work.

Introduce Significant Others

Introduce spouses and partners to the people you work with and bring them to company functions and gatherings. If you make it clear that you are in a committed relationship, people are less likely to think you are sneaking around with the person you are being mentored by or mentoring.

Whether an older male executive or a junior female employee (or vice versa) it is important that we learn to be comfortable working together. If we remember to keep it as professional as possible, it’ll become much easier, and maybe result in a lot less gossip going around.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Men – have you ever mentored a female? Women – have you ever had a male mentor? If so, were you uncomfortable or nervous about how the relationship would appear? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments!

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(Photo Credit: mconnors/Morguefile)

Christina Majaski
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