Inappropriate behavior toward women in the workplace has sparked a national conversation about sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement exploded on social media, celebrities were embroiled in allegations of sexual misconduct, employers were sued and employees dismissed.
While this tidal wave of public attention has generated positive change, some business leaders wonder how the fallout will affect male-female working relationships down the road. Peter J. Strauss, a business owner and attorney, thinks it’s time to discuss how male-female mentoring, for example, has successfully impacted careers and companies. He believes this time of raised awareness provides an opportunity to improve mentoring and make it even more meaningful.
“A workplace is super-charged by having a mix of well-mentored men and women,” Strauss declares. “At a time when men might be pulling away from mentoring to avoid any hint of impropriety with a female colleague, we need more men to mentor women because they’ll be helping to positively change the workplace.” Strauss offers four tips to male business leaders when mentoring women:
- Focus on professional progress. Rules for mentoring should be the same for a woman mentoring a man or a man mentoring a woman. Focus on skills, talents, goals and competencies. Feedback is constructive. Do not veer off the track of professional growth.
- Think of mutual growth. Well-planned and executed mentoring is a win-win for both mentee and mentor. Male business owners need to seek out female mentors, and vice versa, as they add a different dimension to how they plan, execute and build their business.
- Ask if you’re unsure. Colleagues can help you understand what is considered inappropriate behavior and what is acceptable. Something that was a compliment years ago might be considered unacceptable today.
- Practice common courtesy and respect. Treat a female colleague as you would any other colleague—but men should take the extra step of educating themselves on the definition of sexual harassment and what it means to women in a professional setting. Be a good listener and exhibit common courtesy, as you would show any person.
“Male business leaders have a great opportunity here to be great role models, impactful mentors and help women continue to diversify the talent of their companies,” Strauss finishes. iBi