Gender Research Mentor Competence via International Mentoring Community

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Natural Educator - Mentor includes an Executive Summary from University Students' - Class Project re gender research mentor - focus: gender-based mentoring. 

This project was for partial credit for a graduate-level university course. 

Clarification: The research process and text below does not adhere to strict academic protocol nor does this summary include references. However, should you like to read the full report contact Doug Lawrence, Co-Founder and Director Education, IMC through our Contact Page to ensure privacy and confidentiality of the students involved. 

Compiled by:  Doug Lawrence - Co-Founder IMC - Director of Education

Executive Summary - Gender-based Mentoring Research 

The workforce is changing. Women now represent nearly half of the available talent pool, but only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs.

Pressures to fill the talent pipeline are increasing, as Baby Boomers begin to retire. Organizations are now looking to mentoring as a pivotal strategy for employee development and organizational success.

As more women enter the workforce and various social and political movements re-shape gender roles and expectations, mentoring programs must also adapt.

In response to changes in workforce demographics, the #MeToo movement, and Sheryl Sandberg’s drive to break the glass ceiling, organizations must now understand how gender influences mentoring in the workplace and institute programs in which both men and women can succeed.

Project Objectives

We (the students in three working groups) were charged with researching gender-based mentoring in light of this unfolding 21st century story.

Specifically, we were tasked with determining the risks and benefits of gender-based mentoring, the required language to support gender-based mentoring, and the human characteristics necessary for mentoring within and across genders.

Finally, we were charged with offering recommendations for gender-based mentoring in light of our findings.

Key Findings

Risks and Benefits

Evidence suggests that biological gender plays an important role in the outcomes and overall effectiveness of a mentoring relationship. Due to the increasing number of females in the workplace and management, it is important to understand how gender may influence the risks and benefits of cross-gender mentorships and how organizations can create mentoring programs that address these factors.

The following key risks and benefits were identified through our research:

  • Both real and perceived sexual involvement have the potential to damage the relationship’s credibility and the careers of both the protégé and the mentor, which is particularly important in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
  • Female mentors perceive greater risks to entering into a mentoring relationship than their male counterparts and face greater barriers to success, specifically when mentoring male protégés, but are just as willing as men to act in a mentoring capacity.
  • Women are disadvantaged compared with men in securing senior mentors and have limited access to social networks where mentor relationships form organically, preventing them from establishing informal mentor relationships.
  • Research suggests that how gender relates to the benefits of mentoring, either psychosocial support or career development, varies based on the structure of the mentoring dyad. 
  • Female protégés with male mentors report the most career development, including increases in compensation, promotion, and satisfaction with career trajectory.
  • Female Mentor/Male Protégé dyads are impactful because males are able to gain experience working with females, and they experience more idealized influence attributes and behaviors.

Required Language

The ideal language behind gender-based mentoring is extremely relevant to mentoring in the 21st century, yet research specifically about it is hard to come by. In fact, we were not able to locate any research specifically about the ideal language behind gender-based mentoring.

Nevertheless, literature about how gender and language relate in the modern workplace and in mentoring relationships may help fill some of the existing gaps.

As of right now, the most relevant topics associated with the ideal language behind gender-based mentoring are the general differences between how men and women communicate, clarity of the intent of the mentoring relationship, and general guidelines for more gender inclusive language for the workplace.

Human Characteristics

Effective mentoring provides both psychosocial support (encouragement, counseling, empathy) and career support (signaling strength, coaching, exposure, challenging assignments).

Literature suggests that female mentor characteristics more often contribute toward psychosocial support, while male mentor characteristics contribute more toward career development.

The ability to take on characteristics that promote both psychosocial and career support is most effective.

Recommendations for Gender-Based Mentoring

  • Blend Formal and Informal Mentoring - Due to the social and organizational barriers women face in securing a mentor and the enhanced benefits associated with informal mentoring, we recommend organizations institute formal programs that also encourage the formation of informal mentor pairs.
  • Encourage Reciprocal Mentoring - We recommend organizations encourage the practice of reciprocal mentoring, especially within cross-gender dyads. In reciprocal mentorships, information is exchanged dynamically between the mentor and the protégé, allowing for shared learning and more equal power distribution. This mentoring approach helps to break down the socialized gender barriers that women often face in mentoring and encourages learning in both the mentor and the protégé.
  • Institute Mentoring Circles - To create inclusive and comfortable mentoring opportunities for all employees, we recommend organizations institute mentoring circles as part of their formal mentoring program. Rather than simply assigning mentor-protégé pairs, this approach instead allows groups of employees from all genders, ethnicities, and levels of an organization to mentor one another in a group setting. Mentoring circles act as accessible networks intended to cultivate employee growth and encourage knowledge sharing among traditionally underrepresented groups.
  • Train Your Participants - Organizations should train mentors in the best strategies for mentoring across gender, including: managing perceptions, being aware of how gender scripts may affect mentoring, listening to understand, promoting safety and trust, providing affirmation, showing humility, focusing on shared values and beliefs, and intentionally providing career-related benefits.

Actions by International Mentoring Community

The International Mentoring Community has made changes to the baseline Mentor Profile to accommodate the findings of this study.

We recommend to clients a blend of formal and informal mentoring as a means to optimize the business value of mentoring for an organization.

Reciprocal Mentoring is a term that is used to describe what we call effective mentoring. It is a two way trusted relationship where the mentor and mentee will learn and grow personally and professional together.

Mentoring Circles can bring great value to the participants. We have been offering this service for over two years and have seen great results.

Training (educating) of the mentor and mentee is highly recommended. One of the four main reasons mentoring programs fail is due to lack of training and mentoring.

Our education approach provides for a Certification of Competence - Mentor based on 71 Action_Outcome statements. The certification is built on ISO 9001 standards and ISO Regulation 17024.

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Onward ... 

In Closing Gender Research Mentor 4019 ...
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