Mentoring: The Rationality of Fear

"The problem, of course, is that mentoring is too informal to easily monitor. Unless someone loudly announces, “I refuse to mentor women,” there’s not much you can do to him. Mentoring quotas are likely to flop for the same reason.

The alternative is obvious, but unpalatable for activists: Put the frightened people whose assistance you need at ease. Be friendly and calm, gracious and grateful. Take the ubiquity of misunderstandings seriously. Don’t zealously advocate for yourself, and don’t rush to take sides. Instead, strive to deescalate conflict whenever a misunderstanding arises. This would obviously work best as a coordinated cultural shift toward good manners, but you don’t have to wait for the world to come to its senses. You can start building your personal reputation for collegiality today – so why wait to get potential mentors on your side?

If you’re tempted to respond, “Why should I have to put them at ease?,” the honest answer is: Because you’re the one asking for help."