Black people face unique pressures in the workplace. A survey from the Chartered Management Institute finds that 71% of Black people feel overlooked for opportunities because of their identity. Another 34% report experiencing hostile, derogatory, or negative workplace attitudes. That’s compared to only 23% of typical non-Black employees who said the same. These alarming realities are symptomatic of a much larger issue: systemic racial biases make it challenging for Black people to advance their careers.
One of the best ways to address this is by putting mentoring at the heart of career development programmes. Mentorship is a tried-and-tested tool to help professionals succeed at every stage of their professional and non-professional lives. For Black employees, receiving this guidance on navigating corporate culture, work expectations, and career pathing can help them overcome the disadvantages they face. Here’s why.
Mentorship offers genuine connections
Being subjected to racial biases can be disheartening, even for the most optimistic employees. Fortunately, mentorship allows Black employees to feel recognised, form genuine connections, and become part of a community. Mentors can offer guidance on how to survive and thrive both within work and outside of it.
They can also provide tips on how to care for their health and well-being, especially with the added stress of discrimination. When mentors and mentees come from the same cultural background, they understand the challenges that Black people face professionally and personally. This helps them gain insight into how they can meet these challenges in the future when they become roadblocks to their career development.
Mentorship broadens networking opportunities
One of the greatest advantages that can help employees advance their careers is getting insight from established professionals. Mentorship allows Black employees to gain access to circles they might not automatically be accepted into because of racial biases. By introducing mentees into their networks, mentors can help Black professionals earn a competitive edge in their field. Mentees can be introduced to potential collaborators or sources of information they can learn from. They can also gain skills and knowledge they otherwise would not have access to. By broadening their network, they can find broader opportunities for their careers.
Mentorship cultivates leadership skills
Black leadership is extremely hard to come by. A 2020 survey finds that Black professionals hold only 1.5% of top management roles in the UK. That figure has risen by only 0.1% since 2014. In public leadership roles, only 1% of journalists, judges, senior civil servants, police, and academics are Black. This makes it difficult for young professionals from black backgrounds to find leaders that empathise with their experiences. Mentoring Black professionals helps them understand their strengths, despite the discrimination they face. They learn to envision what Black leadership looks like. With the assurance that they have the capacity to lead, they gain the confidence to take on bigger roles and empower younger Black professionals to do the same.
Mentorship opens up opportunities for moving up
Black people may find it challenging to find genuine career advancement opportunities in the workplace. They are often granted positions to suit diversity quotas without providing clear progression for their career prospects. This can seriously stunt their career development when they are recognised for their race instead of their talents. Mentorship grants Black employees the opportunity to hone their skills and knowledge by identifying and tapping into their strengths. They can then take up roles that help them execute their vision and contribute to their company’s progression. As such, they aren’t stuck in a position that limits their input. Instead, they are granted opportunities and equipped with the tools needed to advance their careers.
Black people are faced with numerous disadvantages when it comes to career development. Through mentorship, they can break down the barriers that hinder them and empower others to do the same.
Article written by Rose Jessup