Career Success of a Woman Mentor: Role of Gender Composition of Mentoring Dyad.

AuthorSingh, Sweta


The value of mentoring as a career advancement strategy has been a subject of discussion since its popularization (Singh et al., 2009). In organizations, mentoring relationship involves a junior employee and a senior employee, where the senior employee facilitates the career and personal development of a junior employee and provides insights, information, and exposure to other sources.

The career benefits that an individual gets from mentoring relationships like early career socialization, job performance, career advancement (Chao et al., 1992), improved career mobility, increased job satisfaction, faster promotion rate, enhanced self-esteem, higher pay (Koberg et al., 1994) and overall sense of well-being (Clutterbuck & Ragins, 2002), is well documented. But, the focus of mentoring literature has been on the value and benefits derived from the perspective of those who are being mentored. The extant literature on the benefits of mentoring relationships has paid much less attention to the benefits a mentor can achieve in comparison to those of mentees. The empirical investigation of the mentor's benefits and the mentor's experience, in general, is scarce (Bozionelos, 2004; Lane, 2004). This was also confirmed by Banerjee-Batist et al (2019), who conducted an elaborate integrative literature review of sociocultural factors and individual differences affecting mentoring functions and outcomes.

Accordingly, the primary purpose of this study is to compare mentoring functions provided by women mentors (career support function versus psychosocial function) and career outcomes of women mentors associated with mentoring relationships (objective career outcome versus subjective career outcomes). The second objective is to understand whether the gender composition of mentoring (homogeneous: between woman mentor and woman mentee, and cross-gendered: between a woman mentor and male mentee) affects the relationship between mentoring function and career outcomes of the mentor. The paper discusses the types of mentoring functions a mentor provides to a mentee, followed by the benefits a mentor derives from such a relationship, after which the role of gender composition in a mentoring relationship has been discussed.

Literature Review

According to Kram (1985: 2) mentoring describes a "relationship between a younger adult and an older, [where] more experienced adult helps the younger individual learn to navigate the adult world and the world of work." Mentors are more senior individuals who assist less senior or the person in the role of mentee. Kram (1985), in her seminal qualitative study, explained that the assistance provided to a mentee can be broadly categorized into two mentoring functions: career support function and psychosocial support function.

The career support functions related to developmental behaviors can have an impact on the mentee's career and professional advancement. It requires a mentor to discuss dilemmas and options related to the mentee's career and provides mentee career options by coaching, exposure, sponsorship, challenging work assignments, and protection (Kram, 1983). As a coach, the mentor provides information that is available to senior-level members, suggests strategies to achieve career goals, helps improve job-related skills, and shares career histories (Shen & Kram, 2011). To enhance the visibility and exposure of mentees, mentors create opportunities and introduce them to the 'right person' (Scandura & Viator, 1994). As sponsors, mentors nominate mentees for promotions and projects and advocate their abilities (Thomas, 1990). To provide challenging assignments, mentors assign tasks that help mentees learn and develop new skills and push the mentees out of their comfort zone (Shen & Kram, 2011). Finally, as a protector, the mentor shields mentees from controversies and reduces the unnecessary risk that could damage the mentee's reputation (Levesque et al., 2005).

According to Kram (1985: 32), psychosocial support functions are "those aspects of a relationship that enhance an individual's sense of competence, identity, and effectiveness in a professional role." This function relates more to the interpersonal aspect of relationships. It enhances the self-worth of the mentee and helps an individual form a sense of ability. According to Kram (1983), there are four psychosocial support functions that a mentor can provide to a mentee which are counselling, friendship, role modelling & acceptance, and confirmation. As a counsellor, mentors encourage mentees to talk about their anxiety, act as a board to make mentees understand themselves, and show empathy towards mentees' concerns (Shen & Kram, 2011). As friends, mentors provide opportunities for mentees to spend leisure by discussing non-work interests (Fowler & O'Gorman, 2005; Shen & Kram, 2011). Mentors also double up as role models (Kram, 1983). And to show acceptance and confirmation, mentors convey unconditional positive regard, feelings of respect, and approval even in times of failure (Fowler & O'Gorman, 2005).

Benefits of Mentoring: Mentor's Perspective

As a mentor one can achieve both personal and professional benefits like increased self-confidence, personal fulfillment, intellectual challenge, financial rewards, assistance on projects, revitalized interest in work, recognition from others, increased reputation and prestige, and valuable insights regarding own or other organizations (Bonzionelos, 2004; Lane, 2004) and career success and benefits (Allen et al., 2006 b).

The various perspectives of career success have always maintained duality. Nature-wise career success can be both objective (rank, income) can be subjective (personal feeling of achievement and values). On similar lines, the studies done by mentoring scholars exploring various outcomes associated with mentoring from a mentor's perspective have classified two broad categories of outcome: objective career outcome and subjective career outcome. The objective career outcomes achieved by a mentor include promotion and compensation (Allen et al., 2006 a). On the other hand, subjective career outcomes are effective indicators of career success and less tangible aspects like organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and career satisfaction (Chun et al., 2012).

Very few studies have examined the association between the provision of different mentoring functions (career support vs. psychosocial support) and the career outcomes of the mentor (objective vs. subjective career outcomes). With a few exceptions, like Allen et al. (2006 a), Bozionelos et al. (2011) who studied the relationship between mentoring provision and objective career outcomes from a mentor's perspective; and Ghosh and Reio Jr. (2013) who studied the relationship between mentoring provision and subjective career outcomes from a mentor's perspective, this association has largely been underexplored. Further, the gender role of the mentor and mentee has largely been not considered.

Mentor: The Gender Effect

Ragins (1997) provided a model regarding a...

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