illustration of woman climbing staircase

This week Sheryl Sandberg and LeanIn.Org launched the #MentorHer campaign which challenges men to mentor women in the workplace. This campaign was launched in response to the #MeToo movement which seemed to leave some men hesitant to mentor their female subordinates. How can men make sure they are giving women equal access to opportunities?

30% of men are uncomfortable working alone with a woman

While the #MeToo movement encouraged women to come forward to tell their stories of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, it also seemed to make men take a step back and evaluate their relationships with women in the workplace. According to a survey conducted by LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey, almost 30% of men are uncomfortable working alone with a woman — more than twice as many as before.

Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what many women hoped would happen in a post-#MeToo movement world. Sandberg herself stated,“If the reaction to what’s going on in the workplace is an excuse to isolate women, that is not the answer, and that is unacceptable.” The answer to the #MeToo movement isn’t to isolate women, but to recommit to building women-friendly workplaces.

With women 24% less likely than men to receive advice from senior leaders, it is critical that men answer the call to mentor women in their companies. Mentorship and sponsorship are important for women to be able to get access to opportunities and networks that will advance their careers.

Mentoring women isn’t just the nice thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do

Don’t just think you are doing women a favor when you commit to #MentorHer. You are also doing your company a favor. Companies with women in leadership are less likely to see instances of sexual harassment in the workplace. Additionally, companies with more diverse teams report higher profits. More women in leadership translates to a better bottom line and safer workplaces for everyone.

Now that you have committed to #MentorHer, how do you do it? Here are seven tips inspired by LeanIn.Org:

  1. Break up the boys’ club. Be mindful of who you are socializing with at work. While it is natural to want to hang out with people who look like you, try being more inclusive when inviting people to lunch or your weekly happy hour. Leaving women out of these informal social activities can make it more difficult for them to find strong mentors at their companies.
  2. Turn dinner into breakfast. If you’re uncomfortable getting dinner with a woman who is your subordinate at your company, try getting breakfast. This simple swap can help you begin to build a mentorship relationship while feeling more comfortable.
  3. Recommend a woman for a difficult project. Because there are often fewer people in the boardroom advocating for women, step up and make sure you are actively sponsoring women when it matters most.
  4. Make sure you are evaluating women fairly. Men’s performance is more likely to be overestimated compared to women’s performance. This is especially true when there are not clear guidelines for evaluation. Make sure your team is aware of the bias that exists when evaluating women and set out a clear rubric for evaluation.
  5. Encourage women to go for the promotion. Women are less likely to put themselves up for positions because they don’t feel qualified. Men will apply for jobs if they fulfill 60% of the criteria while women won’t do it unless they meet 100% of the requirements.
  6. Don’t let men dominate the conversation. In team meetings, be aware of times when men interrupt women. If this happens, make sure you bring light to it and ask the woman to finish her thought. Additionally, create spaces where women are able to be at the center of the conversation by encouraging them to sit next to you or at the front.
  7. Give women credit. Make sure you publicly praise women for their ideas and contributions to the team as women are less likely to showcase their achievements themselves. This can give them valuable credibility on your team.

Creating mentorship opportunities for your employees is crucial to building a strong company culture. Learn how Verb can help you develop a mentorship program that works for everyone.