With new research showing 60% of male managers globally are now uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, Stuart Marchand, Managing Director of Wentworth House Partnership and a finalist of this year’s Women in Construction & Engineering’s Best Male Mentor Award, gives his perspective.

For the last two years, LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey have partnered to understand better what men and women are experiencing in the workplace in the #MeToo era and mentoring is one area that seems to have been affected. Pushing awareness of this growing problem is incredibly important given the significant role mentoring can play in developing people and identifying a company’s future leaders.

A successful business has to maintain and improve its staff capabilities. Over time, capable staff will be promoted and senior staff retire and in either of these events someone needs to fill the vacancy. The company therefore must provide mechanisms to develop staff to fulfil these positions. This development may take many forms – courses, self learning, coaching and mentoring.   The difference between coaching and mentoring can be slightly blurred, but my personal split is that coaching deals with an immediate issue, generally to do with the job in hand, whereas mentoring looks longer term and can cover any issues which the mentee wants to raise. As you become more senior in a company you are judged on the performance of your team rather than yourself, because your job is getting the team to perform well. It is therefore important to develop a team, not just individuals.

As Wentworth House Partnership grew, it became apparent that there was a lack of skilled engineers with 10-20 years’ experience in the industry resulting from the 1990s recession, which saw recruitment and training halted across most of the industry. I was therefore faced with deciding how to attempt to fill this gap.   Recruiting engineers from other parts of the industry proved difficult, and they needed significant re-training to be successful in our specialist field. As a result, we implemented a graduate training scheme and mentoring to encourage rapid development amongst the staff.

Research has shown that companies with a diversified workforce perform better that those without. Wentworth House Partnership has always recruited the best staff it can attract, and is currently approximately 25% female with representatives from 14 nations.    Since females represent 50% of the population it is clear that anyone not employing them is missing out on a huge amount of talent.    Unfortunately due to the lack of females choosing STEM subjects at school the gender imbalance is likely to last a long time yet.    I can confidently state that females can be as good or better than their male colleagues and we look forward to them progressing to directorships within the company.

I wholeheartedly agree with LeanIn.org and SurveyMonkey that men – who are currently the majority of managers and senior leaders – must actively support women at work and I hope other companies follow suit.