The BYP Network was founded with the objective of changing the Black narrative. Through the forging of relationships among Black professionals and a network of corporations, there is a unique opportunity for new perspectives and awareness that has often been undervalued. Mentorship is a way for everyone involved—mentors and mentees—to gain exposure to diverse experiences, ideas, and talents.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion matters
In today’s world, business is global, and the interconnectivity of people has never been more accessible. But even with our access to constant connections through the internet and social media, when it comes to business, finding ways to build those diverse connections requires effort.
Over the past few years, it may have felt like diversity, equity, and inclusion have become a set of corporate buzzwords. Something that companies add to their mission statement to check off a box. And in some cases, this has been true. Touting diversity without action is fruitless and counterproductive, but when it’s backed with a real strategy, the benefits are significant. The good news is, that most business leaders agree. According to an article from the Harvard Business Review, nearly 95% of directors agree that diversity brings unique perspectives to the boardroom, while 84% believe it enhances board performance. Even more, research shows that diverse teams simply perform better—bringing forward perspectives and ideas that challenge the status quo and increase innovation.
So why do so many companies still struggle to implement meaningful and strategic diversity efforts into their businesses? The phrase “it isn’t what you know, but who you know” may offer some insight into this problem. And one solution is mentorship.
Why mentorship is good—for everyone
The old idea of mentorship framed it often as a one-sided relationship—a seasoned professional taking a young person under their wing to teach them what they know. But over time, it’s been realized that mentorship can be good for everyone involved, and it can also be good for business.
One reason that many companies cite for struggling with diversity is a lack of access to a diverse pool of talent. They simply don’t know where to go to create a more inclusive and diverse network. If most of your workforce looks the same, chances are their external networks and the talent that they attract do too. Partnership with organizations like the BYP Network is crucial to increasing access to diverse talent.
The BYP mentorship program pairs professionals with shareable skills and young adults with specific interests, building the foundations of a diverse network of talent and ideas. A study on the benefits of mentorship and diversity showed that when mentor-mentee relationships were forged with diversity in mind, the mentees often promoted the company or profession to their diverse networks. This is how you build—from within. Having advocates within the communities and networks that are outside of your workforce is the best way to open the door to increased diversity.
Beyond building an expanded network of potential talent, mentorship also fosters the sharing of diverse ideas. Yes, as a mentor, you bring forward your expertise and your network, but mentees bring a new perspective as well. Answering questions like “why?” and “how?” prompts an examination of practices that often go unchecked in the day-to-day. Taking a step back and looking at things through a fresh lens—from the perspective of an outsider of sorts—creates an opportunity to push and attract new ideas.
How to make the most of mentorship
Listen, listen, listen—then apply. From both the mentor’s and the mentee’s perspectives, listening with intent is the key to a meaningful relationship. Think: What is being shared, how can I learn from this, and how can I apply what I’ve learned? One proven benefit of mentorship for businesses is cultural competency. Forging meaningful relationships with Black mentees allows for increased awareness, understanding, and appreciation for unique cultures, customs, and ideas. This cultural competency is valuable and can be a major differentiating factor when trying to attract diverse talent.
Engage leadership and empower your mentors. For mentorship programs to be successful, buy-in across the business, from the top down, is crucial. The value of the mentor-mentee relationship needs to be fully understood—this connection can hold real power, but it needs support. How are mentors empowered to support their mentees? Are they proven to be good leaders and communicators? Do they have the time and resources to commit fully to this relationship? Without solid backing, the outcomes may fall flat. But with the right structure, the benefits of mentorship can be exponential.
To learn more about the BYP mentorship program and how it can help to build strong foundations of diversity, equity and inclusion within your business, subscribe to the BYP Newsletter.