Women Mentoring Men in the Age of #MeToo. #MentorHim Too

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This is a follow-up article to our November HuffPost piece “Men Mentoring Women: 8 Healthy Boundaries in the Age of #MeToo”

Ladies, it is time to #MentorHim Too…

I was reflecting a lot today on the new SurveyMonkey findings from Leanin.org that were not surprising but captured some of the anticipated backlash of the #MeToo movement.

Some of the findings shared are:

  • 1:2 male managers are feeling uncomfortable being alone with women, mentoring women, and/or socializing.
  • 1:6 male managers may now be hesitant to mentor a woman (it rose from 5% to 16%).
  • Senior executive men share that they are 3.5% more hesitant to travel with junior women for work.

So many senior female leaders have been mentored by men to get to where they are today. It would be a significant loss if men elected to back away from mentoring + sponsoring women. But we have to step up to the plate and mentor them too in many professional areas, and yes, a few personal ones as well.

Here are four suggestions:

1] HELP YOUR BROTHER OUT: Share with your brothers, your fathers, your sons, husbands/boyfriends that most of them are still our heroes and that it’s important to have clearly defined healthy boundaries. They trust you and therefore YOU are the most equipped to have honest and private conversations with them. To get started, share with them what boundaries you’d want men to have with you, your daughter or a niece at work. I have recommended 8 healthy boundaries ( here that you can print for him) including “After 8 pm is too late,” alcohol and mentoring do not go hand in hand. Meetings should occur in public places, not conducting business a’la Weinstein in hotel rooms or behind Lauer’s locked doors. Keep in mind that if your loved one is as good as gold, he might have concerns about other men he works with and feel generally afraid, angry or scared about this movement. Help him help others through mentoring conversations.

2] PULL HIM ASIDE FOR A CHAT: If a man in your workplace seems to be getting a little too close to well, getting in some serious #MeToo (assault) or harassment trouble, why not pull him aside privately and help him understand the line he is about to cross over. That his actions may be harmful or misconstrued by others. #MentorHim before he is compromised professionally. An example below actually happened to me last year:

I was pursuing a contract and my potential client started sending me inappropriate texts the Saturday after we met. I started reading them to my husband and was feeling angry as this behavior could compromise my ability as an entrepreneur in getting a lucrative contract. It was an abuse of power. He was married, I am married WTF! The texts started with mild professional flattery but then took a turn. “His next text is going to ask you what you are wearing,” joked my husband Marc. I decided I needed to shut this down firmly and suspected he was drinking a lot. “Ron, thanks for your note. I cannot meet you at Clyde’s for a drink as my husband and I are heading out with friends. Also, just want to say that I don’t mix business with pleasure.” He immediately backed off, apologized, and later introduced me to others in his company that ultimately led to a contract. Try to shut things down before they escalate is the lesson I learned. Also, ladies, we all need to have an advanced ‘party lines’ like “I don’t mix business with pleasure,’” “thanks but no thanks,” “what’s your HR director’s name and contact info? (smile)” something that works and feels comfortable for you.

3] SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: If a company texts you and you don’t want to keep receiving those texts, you punch in S-T-O-P and text it back. Ladies, we do need to speak up and say S-T-O-P when it goes over the line. If you see something happening to someone else, say something. Think of the women that work in hotels, bars, that are new to the workforce, teens and if you can, please stand up for others who don’t have their I’m-gonna-give-this-dude-an-ass-whooping voice yet. Find a way to communicate where you are mentoring. A way that he will hear you and hopefully think twice next time. You are not responsible for other people’s bad behaviors. Step in and help when you can and its safe or go to HR with what you saw.

4] ENCOURAGE HIM TO ASK FOR ADVICE: The #MeToo Movement (not Moment!) is a time for all of us to reflect and learn. With three brothers, nephews and over a dozen male and female mentors, I’d like to see us learn together and increase the dialogue. I went to speak at George Washington University last week on a panel put on by Tavis Smiley. Tavis is currently defending his reputation after losing his show on PBS for allegations of inappropriate conduct by staff. His five city tour titled Conversations: Men and Women on the Workplace, uncovered some very real issues around race, due process of law and opened my eyes to two dozen nuances I have been reflecting on ever since (here is the video from #GWU. The key points I shared on healthy boundaries and more start at minute 30 following fascinating discussions with my fellow panelists on race and #MeToo). My top recommendation is that you advise men to ask their female colleagues what’s okay and not okay or seek out HR for a current briefing. Look at the women around you at work only as nieces, sisters, childhood friends, respected colleagues (period). A man asked me recently “is it okay if I give you a hug,” I can’t tell you how much I appreciated him asking me and the hug was a lovely gesture too. If I said ‘no,’ that would have ended it all there, smiles all around. It meant a lot to me that he asked.

So ladies, when you think of #MentorHim Too — would love your thoughts and advice from your stories and efforts (email me at info@twomentor.com). We need to flex our muscles and minds around mentoring men and learning from other women’s experiences too. We are in this dialogue with our varying perspectives, together.

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