Mentoring and Diversity: An International Perspective

A diversity mentoring programme: advisory circles USA

Ellen J. Wallach and LueRachelle Brim-Atkins5

A divisional vice-president of a large manufacturing company in the USA engaged our services to assist in designing and implementing an overall corporate diversity plan. We were asked to provide consulting and training services for 18 000 executives, managers, supervisors and union representatives.

Diversity for this organization was more than race and gender. It was generically defined as all the ways people differ , including visible (e.g. colour, size, appearance, etc.) and invisible differences (e.g. background, experiences, sexual orientation, job function, etc.). Part of the three-year effort included developing and delivering an eight-hour mandatory diversity awareness and skill-building course.

The vision for the diversity effort was to have a workplace that supported the development of all employees. Their goal was an inclusive, participative environment where the diverse thinking and ideas of the total workforce would assist the organization in attracting, developing, and retaining the best employees thereby providing the competitive edge needed to retain leadership status in its industry. To help achieve this vision, we created and facilitated an innovative diversity-mentoring programme that would support their overall diversity plan. We called the mentoring programme, Advisory Circles.

The structure and process

An advisory circle is a process for developing relationships among five to seven employees (called advisers) and a senior manager (a mentor or coach). Some organizations have established expectations for the role of a mentor, usually someone who shepherds hand-picked employees through their careers. Since this is...

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