The current diversity of our Total Force is not fully reflective of our nation’s populace – in terms of background, education, skills, ideas, etc. This negatively affects our ability to recruit and retain a broad section of the American people – becoming a cause for some concern, as the nation’s workforce demographics continue to shift along with the gender and ethnicity of college graduates.
When people look for mentors and role models, they often seek out someone with similar characteristics to themselves. While not wholly transferable, knowing that someone with similar background or experiences (e.g., gender, race, maturity, physical capability, or in possession of a unique skill set) was able to succeed, individuals with that characteristic can envision themselves thriving within that organization. Thus, limited diversity can affect recruiting by presenting a picture that is void of mentors and role models for many potential recruits. When these voids exist, retention concerns can be greatly aggravated. For example, a Community or Enterprise with few women offers limited opportunities for fostering rich interactions between women in various career stages.
While it is not necessary to share some of these more personal characteristics to enter a mentoring relationship, it often is ‘easier.’ As one seasoned master chief put it, “It’s just a fact - ducks pick ducks,” meaning that a person’s comfort zone for relationship building often results in very similar people banding together, the development of ‘old boys networks,’ and the unintentional exclusion of people without the defining characteristic(s).
The Navy seeks to overcome these issues by supporting the development of a strong mentoring continuum. In addition to a number of formal, institutionalized mentoring opportunities, Communities and Enterprises are developing their own mentoring constructs. Relationships with affinity groups are developing and expanding, and participation has been strongly encouraged by Navy leadership. Social networking opportunities are being embraced and people from disparate geographical locations are connecting more frequently through tools such as Google Groups, Facebook, and others.
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