Mentoring can be beneficial for everyone and it really should be a priority, but especially for diverse talent. I feel that there is a natural barrier that exists, many times, that may be internally from diverse talent or even LGBTQ+, specifically, which may prevent them from feeling comfortable enough to reach out and ask for help or establish those helpful relationships. This is just one step you have to overcome in checking off a diversity category. But then, the additional step is learning how to forge these relationships or how to gain access to them. So mentoring becomes a critical piece that often goes overlooked as being of value. Often, this is something that people view as being very nice to have but not really something that they need to have in place to help support diverse talent.
Many diversity groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, have been marginalized for so long that creating an environment of acceptance and equality has now become a significant priority for companies across the country. Many companies do an incredible job of acknowledging diversity and do a lot to promote a culture of acceptance. The challenge then really becomes: How do we put that into action?
Statistically, diverse talent is twice as likely to leave the organization if they don’t feel supported or see a pathway for them, which is why access to these mentoring relationships needs to be a critical strategy when thinking about development or particularly diverse talent. Many companies have great intentions, but there needs to be an action in place. Often, having support for employee resource groups in the form of programs, services, or mentoring can really have a tremendous impact on the perceived culture of the company as a whole.
I tell this story often, but it’s very easy for me, throughout my career, to have looked up and seen plenty of leaders that look like me. But I never really felt like they could identify with me in the LGBTQ+ community. So there was that natural barrier of not knowing how to access or how to form this mentee-mentor relationship in a meaningful way. Most of the time my mentors were women and this was just a natural progression of relationships and how it worked out. I finally got a specific position in a very small office working with the entire leadership team at Ritz Carlton and it was the first time that I had direct access to a male, gay mentor. From there, having that shared experience really changed the trajectory of my career and it showed me the stepping stones or a pathway of how to get where I want to be. I like to say all of my mentors, of course, have contributed to where I am today, but having that shared experience had such an amazing impact on me and helped me to see a path, taking my career to the next level. Happy Pride Month!