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Cross-Cultural and Cross-Racial Mentoring

Cross-Cultural and Cross-Racial Mentoring: Strategies for Mentors, Protégés and Mentoring Organizations

Mentoring is an age-old and powerful tool for maximizing your organization’s human potential. Given changing demographics your mentoring program will more than likely involve participants whose racial, cultural, religious, language and ethnic backgrounds differ. When you harness the benefits of diversity in a mentoring relationship you release creative energy that brings out the best in everyone. When participants—mentor, protégé and the organization—ignore or are unable to recognize the impact of diversity, you run the risk of shallow, inauthentic, ineffective relationships.

This thought-provoking workbook contains information, principles, strategies and exercises to strengthen cross-racial and cross-cultural mentoring. Many principles are also relevant to other dimensions of diversity in mentoring. It describes mentoring is a “dance between two individuals who come together under the glare of the mentoring program and/or their individual (desire) to engage with each other for mutually beneficial reasons”. As on any dance floor, “cut-ins”—individual distinctions—inevitably present themselves. While one partner sees these as unwelcome intruders, however, the other may view them as welcome, natural dimensions of the relationship. What should mentoring participants make of racial and cultural cut-ins? Are they relevant to the success of the relationship? Should they be addressed or should they be ignored? What can participants and program managers do to harness the benefits of diversity?

With its practical advice, games, questions for discussion and space to plan together, Cross-Cultural and Cross-Racial Mentoring offers a safe, informed way for mentoring participants to handle delicate diversity issues and create a richer experience for all.

Section 1 looks at the Challenge of cross-cultural and racial mentoring, exploring how, for example, factors such as gender, culture and the ‘invisible knapsack’ of privilege present themselves in the mentoring relationship. The Section also sets cross-racial and cross-cultural mentoring against the backdrop of well-documented mentoring functions, such as Career, Psychosocial Support, Personal Development and mentor/protégé perception of the relationship. Like the other two Sections, Section 1 ends with an exercise for the mentoring participants to do together.

Section 2 looks at the Context of cross-cultural/racial mentoring from the perspective of 5 dynamics: Imbalance of Power and Privilege; Racism in Society; Cultural Lenses and their Effect; The View of Culture as Monolithic; and The Communication Filter Zone™.

Section 3 offers Strategies and Tools to enrich cross-cultural/racial mentoring relationships. The tools are based on building cultural competence; becoming culturally intelligent and re-defining the norm™.

What our readers say…

I found the booklet to be straightforward, honest and fair—not critical—informative and engaging. The general tone of optimism would definitely lead me to invite DiversityTrainersPlus in for a workshop.”
Wendy Bourgnon, Therapist and Mentor

I found it thought-provoking”.
Teresa McGill, President, Gandy Associates

Great book!  The prose is easy to read and informative but not stuffy.”
Jennifer Mulholland, President, Rockwood Furniture

The book offers a great read and positions itself as a good eye-opener to organizations.”
Tilda Mmegwa, President and CEO, Royal TDI Global Inc.

Excerpts from Section 3

Imbalance of Power and Privilege

Sample quote:

“For the protégé a history of domination and oppression at the hands of the mentor’s racial group can trigger subtle resistance to mentor behavior which is viewed as expressions of patriarchy. The mentor faces the need on the other hand, to constantly ensure that her world view is not tainted by attitudes and ideas rooted in the legacy of historical power.”

Racism in Society

Sample quote:

“In liberal societies perhaps the most common form of individual racism is aversive racism, defined…as “consciously knowing, and professing that all people are equal, yet subconsciously treating and judging some groups (races, genders, ethnicities) differently.”… Aversive racism would therefore not allow a White person to evaluate people of color more negatively than they do Whites; but it would allow them to evaluate people of color less favorably than they do Whites. This subtle but critical shift could mean that a mentor in a cross-cultural/cross-racial relationship might open up the outer perimeter of her social networks to her protégée of color, but be more hesitant to open up the inner circle because of uncertainty of how an individual of the protégée’s background would ‘fit’.”

Cultural Lenses and their Effect

Sample quote:

“The nature of cross-cultural and cross-racial relationships varies with country, society and organization, as will the factors that shape cultural lenses. It is highly likely, however, that in any cross-cultural/cross-racial mentoring relationship or program, the protégé of color or who is racially diverse from the dominant group in society might be having some kind of ‘inner dialogue’ not visible to the eye and not shared with those outside of her racial, social or cultural group.”

The View of Culture as Monolithic

Sample quote:

“When culture is seen as a simple either/or the individual born outside the country where she is being mentored feels she has to make a choice between two pivotal aspects of her life: the elements that nurtured her and her professional expertise and the elements that are now going to shape her and keep her career moving forward.”

The Communication Filter Zone™

Sample quote:

“When protégés feel they are receiving good career-type support but less psychosocial support, they seek out friendship, acceptance and support from other mentor figures of their own race. While this may be an option in situations where there are enough senior individuals to play the role of support mentor, for many other situations it is not an option. It is not even necessarily the best option in the long run. Rather, it points to a certain weakness. It says in essence: “We are in a relationship that presupposes our ability to communicate, empathize and provide support, but our racial and cultural distinctions are still standing in the way.”

A Few Words From Our Clients

"You came to this organization at the right time. I was beginning to feel I needed the proper skill to address some issues at work. Now I feel very empowered to go ahead and do so. I will start with an honest conversation."
 Women’s Centre, Toronto

Another quote »

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