We already knew that, as of 2011, women in the workplace (and on TV!) were missing female mentors. WARNING: I'm about to talk about Lean In. OK. I'm doing it now. Sheryl Sandberg suggests that men are also reticent to tutor the new female employee on the block, because they're afraid that everyone will assume they're humping. And the women feel the same way.
Forbes looked at the dynamic in more detail and found that almost two-thirds of men in senior positions resisted one-on-one meetings with younger female employees at the risk of stirring up office gossip. Half of the young women asked avoided contact with the men for the same reason.
One man says that the increased awareness of sexual harassment in the mid to late 1990s made him wary of interacting with a woman lower on the workplace totem pole: "The lawyers and seminars scared me... I wouldn’t want to defend myself against an allegation that I did something and the other party is a woman under 30, especially if she’s attractive." However, he eventually gathered his courage and mentored one such woman. What astounding bravery. Truly A Viking of the water cooler.
On the other hand another man in a high station — younger than the one above — says he'd have no neuroses about mentoring a woman. The piece suggests that a woman should find a male mentor in a male-dominated field, but I disagree. It's about the person, not the gender, but often a female mentor will better understand the specific challenges of climbing the corporate ladder as a Lady Person.
The Center for Talent Innovation has four main suggestions for a co-ed mentor/mentee relationship: Make meetings routine (so everyone knows you're not erratically meeting in a seedy motel), meet in public (ditto), put family first (or, in some cases, your cat/houseplant), and introduce significant others to your co-workers (preferably with crazy-eyes: "THIS IS MY BOYFRIEND.") And then there's Rule 5, which goes something like, Who the fuck cares what people say as long as they're not your boss? Maybe follow that one.
'Are Men Afraid to Mentor Women?' [Forbes]