PowerHouse MENtor: Connor Harbison
October 10, 2017
PowerHouse Montana may be all about economic opportunity for women, but we are fortunate to have a few enlightened men among us who are willing to be advocates in the workplace. Men bring different skill sets and perspectives to mentoring relationships, and are essential to helping women get ahead. We interviewed some of our PowerHouse MENtors, who have made a pledge to support women in the workplace, and we hope that you’ll reach out to them and thank them for their support. PowerHouse MENtor: Connor Harbison, AmeriCorps VISTA, MSU Blackstone LaunchPad Why did you join PowerHouse? For the next year, I’m serving as an Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA) through AmeriCorps. The goal of my service is expanding the reach of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State University. Through my service, underserved groups will be able to make better use of the LaunchPad’s resources and escape poverty. By joining PowerHouse, I can accomplish two goals. Joining this network will allow me to coordinate my efforts to expand entrepreneurship amongst MSU’s women with the larger network of women entrepreneurs in Montana that PowerHouse represents. What can men do to champion women leaders in the workplace? One of the most important things to remember is that workplace achievement is not zero sum. A female colleague’s success is not a man’s failure. The business succeeds when the members of the team work together. Instead of trying to stake out your piece of the pie and protect it from others, focus on growing the pie. Think about actions you can take to make the workplace function more smoothly. Have you ever had a female mentor? Have you ever mentored a woman, either formally or informally? My final semester of college I took a class called ‘Global History of Piracy.’ Though I was ready to graduate, I made a point to visit my professor’s office hours every week. Dr. Molly Warsh has been a mentor and a friend to me since our very first meeting. With a Ph.D from Johns Hopkins and a B.A. from Cornell, Molly is an unparalleled resource for her knowledge of history and wider critical thinking approach. More than that, Molly is self-aware enough not to rest on her laurels and ensconce herself in the ivory tower. She was and continues to be an amazing source of advice for every area, from professionalism to my personal life. Why do you think diversity and inclusion in the workplace is important? Diversity and inclusion are important because a variety of experiences is crucial to success in any endeavor. If your company or team is made up of individuals all with one frame of reference, one background, one field of knowledge, then you will fall victim to groupthink. This can be fatal to any undertaking. It is important to have diversity of both thought and background so that women in leadership don’t merely check the diversity box. How do you think gender inclusiveness can effectively recruit and retain talented workers? Gender inclusivity is another way of saying open mindedness. By being close minded or gender exclusive, managers discourage effort from their subordinates. I’ve seen it too many times when a leader will disregard the ideas of the rank and file in an organization. Without buy-in from the whole group, initiatives fail and projects do not get completed. By being proactive and creating a robust, gender inclusive system, we can make the best workers feel welcome and invested in the decision making process and ultimately the strategic vision of your group. What efforts do you make to create diverse, inclusive organizations? I make an active effort to embrace new viewpoints. Though a new idea might clash with my experience, I know that I am not the end-all, be-all of expertise. Often suppressing your own ego can be the most difficult part of working on a team. It is crucial, however, to be open to new methods and ways of solving problems. Today’s business environment changes more rapidly than ever, and a growth mindset is crucial to to success. What need do you have right now that a PowerHouse could help fulfill? I moved to Montana a month ago with no existing network. I am constantly meeting new people through my role as director of outreach at the Blackstone LaunchPad. The faster I build my network, the more effective I can be. PowerHouse represents a tremendous opportunity to grow my network and accelerate my integration into the Bozeman community. I’m always open to have a conversation over coffee and I love meeting new people to hear their stories.