Should Women Mentor Boys?
Recently, I was talking with a male friend who has a high profile position about mentoring and I was pleasantly surprised when he shared that his mentor is a woman. Our conversation led me to think about the numerous young men I have informally mentored throughout the years. I never considered myself a mentor simply because I did not attach a title to our interactions. They would simply reach out to me from time to time to brainstorm or share ideas. What they shared with me helped me to better understand their experiences as young men.When I look back on the mentors who have influenced me, I can count men and women who have shared insight and offered a balanced view of life. My interpersonal and leadership skills were shaped by men and women who mentored me. My mentoring relationships impacted how I viewed myself as a woman as well as how I interacted and engaged with men in my personal and professional life.
Which leads to my question, “Should women mentor boys?” I want to be clear that I am not asking “Can women mentor boys?” because I believe that is a different conversation. When we look at most formal mentoring relationships, they are developed to provide boys and young men an advisor, a teacher to offer support and provide guidance. I am not advocating for dismissing male mentors. I do however believe that cross-gender mentoring can add tremendous value to a boy’s life. This is not about assigning stereotypical roles to men and women but exploring gender specific experiences.
With 80% of single parent households headed by a single mom (According to 2013 US Census), having a male figure in a boy’s life demonstrates the need for male mentoring programs. A male role model in a boy’s life is crucial to his emotional, mental and social and professional development. Clearly, having someone of the same gender who understands some of the daily challenges you face is important, but they also need more. If we are preparing children a for a 21st century world, they need a village of mentors to help them become better leaders in our globalized society. Ideally, having mentoring relationships which are cross-cultural, cross-race and cross-gender expands a boy’s perspective and gives him a better understanding of the world.
Our 21st century kids need a village of men and women to guide them through their personal and professional development. A well-rounded global citizen can not be shaped without the supportive environment of diverse people. Mentoring cultivates a network where boys have accountability partners that cheer their successes as well as challenge their behaviors and actions when they are working against their personal and professional goals. If the goal of mentoring is to guide, support and encourage a mentee to be their best, wouldn’t he have more to gain if he had men and women mentors who can help him with his learning and growth.
Another reason why women should mentor boys is that boys gain insight into women’s roles in leadership. How do we raise men who will support women in the workplace, if they don’t have first hand understanding of the barriers women in leadership face? If we ask, “Can a woman teach a boy how to be a man, isn’t it fair to ask can a man teach boys about a woman’s personal and professional experiences.
We can not expect to raise men who will advocate for women (or vice versa) if we do not give them the opportunity to learn from women in leadership. Leadership development is not confined to gender. I believe that same gender mentoring relationships give boys a solid foundation for manhood, but having a woman as a mentor gives him insight into diverse issues.
Repost from The Good Men Project.com