Encouraging everyone to act as allies – to use their voices and influences to support marginalised groups – will have a huge impact on diversity and inclusion.
"At Xero, we know that a successful mentoring relationship can have a really positive impact on an employee’s personal and professional development. Many successful people credit a mentor for helping them on their road to success.
I’ve personally benefited significantly by having several mentors over the years to gain perspective, challenge my thinking and help me learn more about myself.
Mentoring is so important, particularly in the tech industry. We’re breaking new ground on a near daily basis and it’s essential that our teams are high-performing. Having a trusted advisor to provide guidance can make such a difference, particularly for our younger or more junior staff. It’s also important not to underestimate the value of these kinds of positive relationships with senior staff members.
These relationships are particularly important to staff who make up a minority in a business or industry. In tech (amongst other industries), our biggest disparity is gender disparity. This makes mentoring women especially important.
At a recent lunch, I spoke to some of our female developers about their pathway to Xero – what made them pursue a career in tech, what they love and what their biggest challenges have been.
One of the biggest challenges these women face is the unconscious gender bias that comes with being a minority in your field. Then in turn, they all identified the positive influence that having a mentor or ally had on helping them overcome this challenge.
Mentoring can be formal or informal – it’s as simple as a senior colleague, male or female, taking a younger or less experienced one under their wing.
Having coffees, catch ups, or just being a point of contact or sounding board can have such an impact and make the younger or less experienced staff member feel valued. Social groups and social media channels are also excellent forums for less formal mentoring between staff.
One female developer credits her strong network of other female developers in making a huge contribution to her development, achievement, and enjoyment at work.
Another pointed to the community groups that exist for women in tech to connect, share learnings and experiences.
These include Meetup groups, Slack channels and organised networks such as She# and Refactor. Finding allies in and outside of the workplace is also important. Some established organisations our staff use include TechWomen, ShadowTech and GirlBoss.
We identified mentoring as something that would really benefit our female employees and as such, have just launched our own pilot mentor program, in partnership with Mentorloop. At this stage the programme is only open to women at Xero but our mentors can be male or female, in roles across the spectrum - from developers to marketers and everything in between.
We’ve also started trialling ally training in the leadership team at Xero. I think it’s important to bring men on this journey as well. I truly feel that encouraging everyone to act as allies – to use their voices and influences to support marginalised groups – will have a huge impact on diversity and inclusion at Xero.
I would strongly encourage all companies to provide mentoring opportunities and programmes to their staff. The rewards are invaluable and demonstrates a real commitment to your biggest asset - your people."
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