Doing not Trying

a blog series by Vân Nguyen

2. He for he at work


Read the other blog here

1. Mind the gap if you want to grow

When researching the topic of reverse mentoring, I came across so many different articles. The majority being on generational differences, millennials teaching baby boomers on social media and getting them to become more tech savvy. While digging a bit deeper, some of the articles described junior women mentoring older (white) men on sexism, and even less were focused on ethnic minorities or LGBT.

The articles I couldn’t find, were those of young millennial men mentoring senior men on diversity (might be my lack of Google search skills…). Now this might be a far-fetched idea, but I thought about it while thinking about the LEAD Network’s theme this year of #DoingNotTrying and how to engage men.

In my previous blog, I gave an example of how I experienced my male peers to be aware of the lack of diversity in my organization. Research from BCG has shown that young male employees look at gender diversity in a similar way as those of their female peers. “These findings provide company leadership with crucial proof that gender equality is not just a women’s issue”, said Matt Krentz, a co-author of the report.(1)

This got me thinking: if companies engage into reverse mentoring, why couldn’t we use it as a platform to also share diversity views between the millennial men and senior male executives? I got really inspired when listening to the webinar on “How to Engage Men in Gender Equality”. What I really liked about the presentation, for one, was that Paco Medina (senior HR manager at P&G) was not only presenting the subject, he was also very open about his views on diversity prior to participating in their diversity programme and being completely unaware of some of the unconscious bias he held.

What became apparent to me while listening was the following: it’s not that men don’t want to contribute, they often don’t even realize it’s necessary to do so. They are not the ones that are experiencing any of the disadvantages of a lack of gender diversity (or so they think)…

If you are male and reading this article: congratulations! I assume you are interested in the topic and started doing your research (for all the women out there, don’t hesitate to encourage your male colleagues, friends and family to start doing the same). Here are my suggestions for you:

  1. Do a complete and honest self-assessment. Think of the last 6 months. Were there situations where you mentored a male and female colleague? Did you approach the situations differently or gave them different advice? What about during meetings? How did you behave? Did you notice the lack of women in the room (I honestly can’t think of many meetings filled with a majority of women, unless you are working in the marketing department or HR, however cliché that might sound).
  2. Become aware of your behavior. Now that you have done an inventory of your behavior, it might be easier to notice it in new situations that you encounter. Your first reaction will most probably be to behave as you’ve always done on auto-pilot. That’s OK. As long as you REALIZE it afterwards. Be brave and bold: ask your (fe-)male colleagues to give feedback. How did they experience your behavior?
  3. Make the change. Obviously, this blog would not serve any purpose if I didn’t ask you to think of changing your behavior and habits. Again, don’t hesitate to ask for support here from colleagues. How could you have approached the situation differently? Your millennial male colleague might be able to offer you a completely different view on how he would have acted, if he were in your situation.


To link back to why diversity can also help you boost your sales as a consumer goods or retail organization, take a look at this article.

Still not convinced? Here’s an example of how Estée Lauder have engaged millennials to reverse mentor their senior colleagues and have changed their marketing approach to appeal to the younger generations.

Other examples of consumer goods and retail companies who have engaged in reverse mentoring (although not directly related to diversity) are Nestlé and Kimberly-Clark.

To end with another challenge: I found no articles online when looking for “He for he”. Which company will be the first to pick up this initiative?