Gender Gaps in Workplace Mentor Programs


It’s rude to let someone walk around with a piece of spinach in their teeth from lunch, right? Well, there’s a piece of spinach in your training and mentorship program. Although there have been great advances in closing the gender gap, it’s still present in some aspects of the workplace. Mentoring programs are still affected the gap.

Women hold the majority of entry-level positions at 53%. However when they begin to climb the leadership ladder, they leave management positions upon reaching higher rungs. Currently, women only make up 14.6% of senior management and vice president positions in Fortune 500 companies. This staunch difference between entry-level jobs and higher leadership could be attributed to the underrepresentation of women in mentorship programs

Gloria Larson, President of Bentley University, said:

“As women get close to attaining leadership positions, they need someone to turn to for help reaching that next step. One of the reasons so many women drop out of middle management positions is they don’t see other female staffers in similar jobs around them.”

According to a study Bentley University, 55% of the women surveyed agreed that women-specific mentorship programs have the potential to help women succeed in higher corporate positions. Another 52% said that women-specific networking could help women flourish in the workplace. The Bentley University study also showed that 57% of recruiters believe women are better candidates to begin with, so how do they drop so far in numbers as they climb the corporate ladder?

What’s being done to close the gap

There is still a disparity in the proportion of men to women in tech fields. However, Facebook, Pinterest, and Box have initiated a program to increase mentorship programs for women in tech fields. The program is called WEST – Women Entering and Staying in Tech. Facebook said in a recent statement:

“Mentorship can be incredibly influential in a woman’s career, and we’re excited to be tackling this challenge together. We believe that working together and providing more direct support, advocacy, and space for community development, we can create an impactful, scalable, one-on-one mentorship program to help women build and grow meaningful careers in tech.”

Men must play a part, too

“Every company wants to know how to find and keep highly talented women in the workplace.” – Marcus Buckingham, founder at TMBC

While women are a key role in developing a stronger female presence in any given mentoring program, men must play a key role as well. Even 37% of men agreed that male leadership could be an active part of a female mentorship program. The one-on-one mentorship programs like WEST are a start to the change. However incorporating men as mentors takes the process one step further.

Women’s rights and gender equity in the workplace advocates, like Bryan Pelley, note that a large issue with men’s roles in female mentorship is the male motivation for equality in the workplace. They choose to treat them the same – despite the fact they have different needs in the workplace – in an effort to not coddle very capable women. Pelley said:

“I’m comfortable with the idea that treating people ‘equally’ doesn’t actually mean treating people the same. You sometimes need to make adjustments to make sure people have an equal opportunity to succeed.”

Although there should be equal opportunities for success in the workplace, mentorship opportunities for men and women are not the same. Strides are being made towards mentorship equity. Better-suited and one-on-one mentorship programs targeted towards women could help to close the gap for women in tech fields. It could also close the gap between high-level positions between men and women. 

Because many organizations don’t have the same initiatives as WEST put in motion, there is a large difference in the number of men and women in managerial and senior levels. Change the underrepresentation of women in mentorship programs to see a higher number of women in high-level jobs.  

Tools like Visibility Software’s Cyber Train can get your company on the right path towards a better mentorship program. You can track training and manage program enrollments for the ease of tracking employee success. The automated approval streamlines the process, so there’s no need to wait on communication between management levels.

Have you reevaluated your training program lately? We have all the blocks and mortar you need to build a new one. Give us a call to get started. 

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