Analysis: Don't let the Petraeus affair keep men from mentoring women
Thanks, David. Thanks, Paula. Your dalliance wreaked havoc on national security, top government agencies, and at least two families. Now, as shown by a recent headline at Forbes questioning the "danger of male mentors," your untoward affair casts further doubts on opposite-sex mentoring relationships, which for most women are a necessity for professional advancement. As if such associations weren't already laden with enough fear and suspicion, this unease will likely increase now that longtime concerns about the too-cozy mentoring by former General Petraeus of his adoring biographer turned out to be well-founded.
Yet, as Jenna Goudreau states starkly in the Forbes article, "Women need powerful mentors to succeed. The majority of powerful leaders continue to be men."
This has been true in my career. I cannot begin to measure how much of who I am professionally is owed to male mentors, men in leadership positions who went out of their way to identify and cultivate in me latent qualities I was unaware I had: from the pastor who suggested I act as spokesperson of an activist organization when I had no real public speaking skills, to the headmaster who asked me after one year of teaching in his school to become its principal, to the professor who took me to lunch during my first overwhelming semester of graduate school and ended up being director of my doctoral dissertation, to the college dean who encouraged me to take my current position as department chair and empowered and supported me in that role in every way.
Karen Swallow Prior is professor of English and chair of the English and modern languages department at Liberty University.