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Mentoring as a Vehicle for New Immigrant Integration

Copenhagen, Denmark

Elisabeth Jensen is the Executive Director of KVINFO, Denmark’s primary women service organization. In 2003 KVINFO created its Mentor Network, which matches refugee and immigrant women with women who are established in the Danish workforce. Matching is based on factors such as education, profession and individual request. The Network currently has about 3300 participants from across the country. While the mentors in the program are for the most part White Danish women, the protégés/mentees are usually of different races, religions, cultural heritage, ethnicity, etc. Developing personal networks is especially critical in a country where more than 50% of all job openings in are filled through personal networks. The program has, however, been so successful in helping to integrate mentees in the workplace and in Danish society in general, KVINFO was cited in Canada’s Cities of Migration project as a global best practice. Elizabeth shares tips that she says account for KVINFO’s cross-racial/cross-cultural mentoring success:

1)      Focus first on the needs of the mentee. What does she want? What does she hope for in her future? The mentor’s role is to support the mentee in achieving her personal goals.

2)      Be aware of cultural ‘glasses’ that cause people to see each other as stereotypes rather than as individuals. Let the mentee tell her own story.

3)      Make the program values-based. KVINFO’s program is influenced by values of equality and solidarity coming out of the women’s movement.

4)      Focus on the positive—life, the future.

5)      Be wary of ‘Othering’—“We are all individuals in this process”. Empathize from personal experience

6)      Focus on elements that mentor and mentee have in common, whether it be kids, hobby or professional profile.

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