Promoting Diversity in the Workplace through Mentorship

May 25, 2019

A lack of diversity in the workplace can hurt a company’s bottom line, turnover rate and employee morale and productivity. Yet, research has shown that a good mentoring program can lead to positive changes. 

Minorities and women can face a lot of challenges and barriers when it comes to advancement in most industries. Although most companies understand the importance of developing a diverse workforce, there are many who have not yet put policies or practices into full effect.

Workplace mentoring programs have been seen as one of the best ways to make changes in the workplace, particularly when it comes to helping minorities. 

Mentoring has been found to have a significant impact on the psychology and confidence level of those from minority groups. Based on a study, at the two-month mark many women and minorities in a mentoring situation reported higher levels of satisfaction. 

“Both women and minorities are susceptible to self-doubt and the imposter syndrome, in which individuals harbor serious doubts about their abilities and qualifications, despite evidence to the contrary,” researchers noted. 

Another recent study found that 74 percent of minorities participate in workplace mentoring programs when they are offered. The results also noted that women were more likely to say the mentorship experience was important to them (30 percent) when compared to just 23 percent of men. In addition, 32 percent of minorities indicated a mentoring relationship was “extremely important” while just 27 percent of the overall respondents said so. 

Researchers stated that 25 percent of minorities who responded had found a mentor on their own without assistance from the organization. According to the organization that conducted the study, Heidrick & Struggles, the data supports the idea that companies who are serious about advancing minorities in their workplaces should formalize a mentoring program.

Problems minorities face in the workplace

Experts have noted that minorities and women face many challenges and barriers in the workplace, including:

  • Bias
  • Prejudice
  • lack of confidence 
  • a sense of isolation
  • disparate cultural expectations

Some of the bias that minorities face have been linked to societal stereotypes that have persisted. For example, often times black employees feel they need to prove themselves by working longer hours because of a prevailing stereotype of a poor work ethic among their race, The Atlantic reported. However, these efforts by minority workers may not be helpful, the publication noted. 

“To make matters more complicated, such strategies can backfire, reinforcing other stereotypes: Working those long hours may lead colleagues to assume that the workers lack the intellectual preparation needed for high-status professional jobs.”

For women there are a unique challenges and bias that exist, particularly for working mothers. There is a belief that women who are also mothers lack the dedication and commitment expected by companies and organizations. However, there are some good ways to overcome the barriers that women face in the workplace. 

A Harvard Business Review article examined the type of assignments that managers hand out to employees and discovered that most minorities were given less-glamourous, office housework or basic administrative tasks. These types of assignments are not likely to result in promotion because, while they are important to the organization operations they are not linked to revenue.

“The gaps with glamour work, too, are large. Female engineers of color were 35 percent less likely than white men to report having equal access to desirable assignments; white women were 20 percent less likely,” the article noted. 

Because of these issues, it can be difficult to find a mentor to guide minority employees in an organization. This is where mentoring software like Together can help make the job simpler. Our software is capable of making a mentoring match based on your own guidelines, which means you can find a good match among minority employees easier. 

Some other reasons for the lack of diversity in the workplace, according to one Glass Door article, are:

-leadership team is not diverse: it is difficult to make any serious in-roads when none of the company leaders are from a minority group. 

-fear of change: to promote diversity and include more minority groups in higher levels of employment means a company will need to change. 


Benefits of minorities in the workplace

Despite the lack of change in industries and workplaces, there has been some research done to show the advantages of having a diverse workforce. 

Research has shown a link between a diverse workforce and increased revenue for companies, Barron’s reported. A Credit Suisse study found that companies were women hold senior management positions see a 10 percent increase in cash flow returns on investments. Similar data was found by McKinsey, which saw that diverse leadership teams can see a 21 percent increase on profitability. In addition, they found that companies that lacked diversity were 29 percent less likely to see above-average profitability. 

Overall, organizations that have a variety of viewpoints and cultures represented have shown to be more successful in the long run. One of the reasons for this is that if the company can have an employee make-up that is representative of the general consumer audience they are looking to reach they are more likely to create products and solutions that customers will want to buy. 

Conclusion

Although there can be many challenges faced by minorities in the workplace, research has shown the benefits a mentoring program can offer. From career advancement for participants to psychological benefits, all of which can create a more positive organization and slow the turnover rate. 

If you are looking to establish or enhance your workplace mentoring program, consider using a mentoring software program like Together. Our software has been designed to streamline the process from registration to matching to monitoring and reviewing the program’s success. 

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