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Reverse Mentoring Moves Women and Allies Forward


The value of mentorships as a means for professional learning cannot be understated. Engaging in a mentor relationship can expand networks and fast track careers. At Northwestern Mutual, we believe the benefits of mentorship aren’t exclusive to the mentee. We believe the strongest mentorships offer mutual exchange.   

We have many mentorship efforts across the company for our people. One example of this is our Male Allies group and VIBE (Visible Intentional Black Excellence), who partnered to create a space for knowledge sharing through a reverse mentoring program between women and male allies. The goal is to provide executive leaders and senior managers within the Male Allies group an opportunity to learn about the experiences of women in both corporate environments and our communities.  

A rising tide lifts all boats 

The mentorship program consists of a four-month commitment where pairings meet monthly to build relationships, discuss life experiences and create connections across the organization.   

Members are encouraged to lean into this opportunity to fully embrace the experience. Through the program, male allies gain a better understanding of the issues and challenges and women receive valuable one-on-one face time with leaders.  

“Reverse mentoring with senior leaders raises visibility and builds a bridge toward enhanced understanding of the experiences of others – outside and within the organization,” said Noleta Franz, VIBE co-chair and Assistant Director of Legal Process. “It has opened doors to have conversations about important issues that matter to Black women.”  

By sharing diverse perspectives together, Male Allies and VIBE can more effectively advocate for workplace culture change by fostering collaboration and a sense of belonging. 

Creating space for authentic allyship 

In its inaugural year, the program saw over 19 mentor pairings. For senior leaders within the Male Allies group, the opportunity to connect with VIBE members has aided their allyship journey and served as a leadership tool to broaden perspective.  

“The reverse mentor program has improved my understanding of the challenges women are facing, cultural differences, and work experiences,” said Art Mees, VP of Regional Distribution Performance. “My mentor and I connected, built a trusting relationship and were able to dive into courageous conversations that accelerated my learning. While this is a long journey, I feel more connected with all my colleagues.”   

Based on the success of the program, the two groups are collaborating on more ways to bridge connection through mentoring and knowledge-sharing, including potential business acumen sessions and additional rounds of reverse mentor partnerships.   

Northwestern Mutual believes learning about experiences outside of your own is a critical component in how we relate, collaborate, enhance leadership, and be a catalyst for change in workplace culture. To learn more, visit our Culture page.