Male CEOs: Men Can Improve How They Mentor Women

At the 2019 DiversityIncTop 50 event on May 7, Clint Wallace, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Sanofi North America (No. 31), Bruce Broussard, CEO of Humana (No. 42), Johnny Taylor, President and CEO of SHRM and Luke Visconti, Chairman of DiversityInc, were the power players tabbed with discussing how they found success mentoring women.

To open the discussion, Visconti highlighted the MARC program (Men Advocating Real Change), that Clint Wallace implemented at Sanofi. In less than 2 years, 320 executives had completed the program within the organization. The goal of MARC is to further engage men in the role of being a mentor to women in the organization.

Fear was mainly the driving force that prevented men from participating in the past.

“We’ve heard from many men, who would say, ‘Look, I want to get on this journey, but I’m afraid, I don’t know how to have the conversation,'” Mr. Wallace explained.

A major turning point was when the question was asked through the organization to women, “Have you ever encountered someone saying something inappropriate to you in the workplace?”

The men in the room were taken aback to see the number of hands that were raised. Bruce Broussard takes a unique approach to mentorship at Humana. He assigns a group of employees, who are mostly women, an issue that they have to solve by using an array of resources at the company.

This exercise allows the employees to establish sponsorship outside their specific department and throughout the organization. Broussard doesn’t just talk the talk but engages in mentorship as well by participating in an 18-month mentorship program, which has produced some very impactful leaders within the organization.

He emphasized the importance of sponsorship, which has enabled many females within these programs careers to blossom. He also takes on the part of a mentee through “reverse mentorship, “by having his employees train him in skills he doesn’t know, like analytics.“I find those things, where you make it part of the business where it’s not just a sideshow it becomes much more impactful, and when you do it in a way that’s natural, it has a large impact,” he said.

Johnny Taylor from SHRM conducted a study around the time that the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. That study showed 1 in 5 executives almost all men, are more than likely to devote less one on one time to staff members for fear of being accused of harassment.

Taylor explained how that case was an example of a culture problem.

“This is an opportunity for us. We need to own this. This is about culture. You can pass all the laws that you want, all the postings, and all the regulations. But at the end of the day, something is wrong with your culture when someone is allowed to exist in the open engaging in this kind of behavior,” he said.

A good portion of men actually don’t know what constitutes sexual harassment. He attributed some of this lack of understanding to the “boys will be boys” way of raising children.

To combat this, he suggested putting men and women together to understand how to interact with each other in a safe, honest way. The good old boys club and men trying to solve all women’s problems without actually listening and engaging are two things of the past, the panel concluded, not for the future.

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