Journal of Management

Gender and willingness to mentor in organizations

Gender and willingness to mentor in organizations – includes appendix

Belle Rose Ragins

Mentoring relationships are important for the career development of both mentors and proteges (Hunt & Michael, 1983; Kram, 1985). For proteges, mentoring relationships are related to organizational advancement, career development and career satisfaction (Fagenson, 1988, 1989; Roche, 1979; Scandura, 1992; Whitely, Dougherty & Dreher, 1991). From the mentor’s perspective, the mentoring role is an important developmental component of career (Dalton, Thompson & Price, 1977; Kram, 1985) and life stages (Erikson, 1963; Levinson, 1978). Moreover, mentoring has increasingly become part of the managerial role in organizations; managers are expected to provide socialization and career assistance to promising young proteges (cf. reviews by Feldman, 1988; Hall, 1987; Hunt & Michael, 1983).

While the mentoring relationship is important for the career development of both sexes, it is particularly critical for women in organizations (Solomon, Bishop & Bresser, 1986). Mentoring relationships are important for female protegees and female mentors. For female protegees, mentors can assist in overcoming barriers to advancement in organizations (see review by Ragins, 1989). It is particularly important for female protegees to have access to female mentors, because these mentors can provide critical role modeling functions and will not elicit the detrimental sexual issues common to female protege-male mentor relationships (Clawson & Kram, 1984; Fitt & Newton, 1981; Ragins & McFarlin, 1990). Mentoring relationships are also important for female mentors. These relationships offer a host of potential benefits for the female mentor, such as career rejuvination, organizational recognition, improved job performance, and a loyal base of support (Kram, 1985).

For the reasons given above, women are generally encouraged to gain a female mentor or become one. However, current theory on the development of mentoring relationships predicts that women face gender-related barriers to becoming a mentor (Hunt & Michael, 1983; Kram, 1985; Ragins, 1989). Anecdotal reports support the prediction that women may be less willing than men to assume a mentorship role (Halcomb, 1980). However, to date no empirical study has investigated gender differences in willingness to mentor. The purpose of this study, then, is to provide a test of mentorship theory on gender differences in willingness to mentor. The second purpose of this study is to guide the future development of mentorship theory by providing some insights into factors that may influence the decision of both men and women to enter a mentoring role.

Theoretical Review

Gender and Decisions to Mentor

Theory concerning women in management suggest that women may face more obstacles to assuming a mentoring role than their male counterparts. According to Kanter (1977), women in the numerical minority (e.g., tokens) are placed in the organizational limelight and are faced with increased performance pressures and stereotypical expectations. Their actions are scrutinized and their performance becomes public knowledge. This increased visibility places the token woman in a more precarious position than her male counterpart.

This perspective has direct implications for female mentors. Because of their numerical rarity, female mentors are more visible than their male counterparts. One key risk involved with mentoring is that protege performance is often viewed as a direct reflection of the mentor’s judgement and competency (Roche, 1979; Zey, 1984). Due to their precarious position and limelight status, female mentors may be less willing and able to withstand the risk of protege failure. This problem may be compounded if she has a female protegee. While the female mentor-female protege relationship avoids complications associated with cross-gender relationships, it is the most visible of all gender combinations, and therefore entails the greatest risk. Moreover, if one assumes that while male and female proteges are equal in talent, women face greater obstacles to advancement and successful performance (e.g., Powell, 1988; Sutton & Moore, 1985), then there is a greater risk associated with female than male proteges. Finally, the female mentor-female protege relationship may be met with negative reactions if it is viewed as constituting a “female power coalition” (Kanter, 1977; Ragins, 1989).

A second obstacle is time constraints. Compared to men, women face greater barriers to advancement (e.g., Freedman & Phillips, 1988; Ragins & Sundstrom, 1989; Sutton & Moore, 1985) and may consequentially need to spend their time advancing their own careers rather than helping others. In addition, in the role of a token, women may face greater time constraints in that they may be requested to represent their gender on various organizational committees and task groups (Kanter, 1977). Combined, these factors suggest that women may have less time available for developing mentoring relationships than their male counterparts.

Two studies provide tangential support for these propositions. Brown (1986) found that female protegees reported a shortage of female mentors and that they viewed potential female mentors as lacking the time available to become a mentor. Bowers (1985) conducted an exploratory study of 16 female executives. Although the study was limited by sample size and the lack of a male comparison group, the female executives reported that they lacked the time to be a mentor and that they wanted to avoid the high visibility involved with mentoring another woman.

Another possibility is that gender differences in self-confidence may influence decisions to mentor. In their mentorship model, Hunt and Michael (1983) propose that self-confidence is an important factor in willingness to mentor; Roche (1979) also characterized mentors as self-confident professionals. While confidence may be a key factor in willingness to mentor, existing research indicates that women tend to have lower self-confidence than men (although this relationship is not universal across all achievement settings) (cf. reviews by Lenney, 1977; Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974; Nieva & Gutek, 1981). One outcome of lower self-confidence may be that women may feel less qualified than men in assuming a mentoring role.

Taken together, existing theory and research predicts that women will face more barriers to becoming a mentor than men, and may therefore be less willing to enter a mentoring role.

Hypothesis 1: Women will report less willingness to mentor than men.

Other Factors Influencing Willingness to Mentor

In addition to gender, a number of other factors may influence the willingness of both men and women to enter a mentoring role. This section first provides a theoretical overview and then presents hypothesized relationships concerning variables influencing willingness to mentor.

According to career theorists, mentoring is an important developmental component of both life and career stages (cf. Feldman, 1988; Hall, 1976, 1987; Kram, 1985). Theories of life stages view mentoring as a process that occurs in the midcareer years, which are characterized by introspection, reassessment, and reappraisal of career and life accomplishments. During these years, individuals are faced with the reality that their life is half over, and attempt to reconcile current accomplishments with past aspirations (Dalton, 1959; Jacques, 1965; Sofer, 1970). According to Erickson (1963), mentoring functions are critical for obtaining generativity–the sense of contribution to future generations. Generativity is necessary to progress to the next life stage and avoid stagnation in the individual’s life development. Levinson (1978, 1986) also views mentoring as a crucial activity during the individual’s mid-life transition. Individuals often reach career plateaus during mid-life transitions, and may be faced with a lack of challenge and growth. This leads them to question the importance of work in their lives. At this point, the mid-life transition may lead to decreased organizational commitment, involvement, satisfaction and performance (Ornstein, Cron & Slocum, 1989). Mentoring can help the individual move through this career transition by providing a sense of purpose and direction.

Theories of career stages also view mentoring as a key component in career development (Hall, 1976). Dalton, Thompson and Price (1977) conceptualize mentoring as the third stage in their model of professional careers. This stage is characterized by the assumption of responsibility for others, and requires the broadening of interpersonal and managerial skills. These skills are often developed by training and mentoring others in the organization. The mentoring stage is viewed as tied to successful performance in the organization, and is a prerequisite for the next career stage, which is involved with shaping the direction of the organization. The Dalton model suggests that organizations do not value individuals who fail to progress through these stages, and that organizations expect professionals to assume a mentoring role and assist in the development of younger employees.

The above theories predict that willingness to enter a mentoring relationship will be strongest in the midcareer years. Early career stages are involved with gaining a mentor, and later career stages are involved with anticipation of retirement and a psychological withdrawal from the workplace (Hall, 1976; Kram, 1985). This suggests a curvilinear relationship between age and willingness to mentor.

Hypothesis 2: Willingness to mentor will be curvilinearly related to age.

Besides age, mentorship theorists have suggested that other variables may influence decisions to mentor. In their mentorship model, Hunt and Michael (1983) predict that mentors are likely to be found at higher ranks in the organization. Length of employment at the organization also may influence decisions to mentor. It is reasonable to expect that higher-ranking individuals with a long history of employment at the organization may be more comfortable in the mentoring role than lower ranking organizational newcomers. Since tenured individuals at higher ranks may not necessarily be in later career stages, we can expect a general linear relationship between rank, tenure and willingness to mentor.

Hypothesis 3: Organizational rank will be positively related to willingness to mentor.

Hypothesis 4: Length of employment will be positively related to willingness to mentor.

Kram (1985) hypothesizes that previous mentorship experience, either as a mentor or as a protege, may influence decisions to mentor. Individuals with mentorship experience have firsthand exposure to the benefits of the relationship, and may therefore value the relationship more than individuals lacking mentoring experience. In support of this idea, in a survey of 100 female executives, Missirian (1981) found that mentors tended to be former proteges. It is therefore reasonable to expect a direct relationship between individuals’ previous experience as a mentor or a protege and their willingness to assume a mentorship role in the future.

Hypothesis 5: Experience in mentoring relationships will influence willingness to mentor such that more mentor and/or protege experience will be related to greater willingness to mentor.



As part of a larger study on mentorship in organizations, questionnaires were administered to 880 employees of three research and development organizations in the Southeastern United States. The employees were matched by department, level, and specialization to ensure that equal numbers of women and men were represented. Organizational charts were used to match all available female managers with at least one male counterpart. A total of 510 surveys from the 880 were returned, resulting in a response rate of 58 percent. The sample consisted of 229 women and 281 men. The respondents were Caucasian (93 percent), with 70 percent holding at least a bachelor’s degree. The median age was 41. Most of the participants were married (81 percent) and employed full-time (94 percent). The median period of employment by the organization was 10.7 years.

Respondents were asked if they currently were/are a mentor and if they had prior or current experience as a protege. Since there is no single accepted definition for the concept of mentor (Carden, 1990), the definition used in the present study was derived from those employed in previous research (Kanter, 1977; Kram, 1985; Levinson, 1978; Phillips-Jones, 1982). Of course, we also recognize that most people have an intuitive understanding of the now popularized concept of mentor, and that these personal definitions may in part guide responses. The following definition was used in the present study: “A mentor can generally be defined as a high-ranking, influential member of your organization who has advanced experience and knowledge and who is committed to providing upward mobility and support to your career.”

In terms of mentor experience, 17.6 percent of the respondents (n = 90) reported that they had experience as a mentor, while 82.4 percent (n = 420) did not have mentor experience. Men were significantly more likely to report being a mentor than women; 21.0 percent (n = 59) of the men reported being a mentor, compared to 13.5 percent (n = 31) of the women (McNemar Chi-Square = 142.69, p |is less than~ .0001). In terms of protege experience, 53 percent of the respondents had current and/or previous experience as a protege, while 47 percent did not have any protege experience. Although the differences did not reach statistical significance (McNemar Chi-Square = .652, N.S.), men were somewhat more likely than women to have experience as protege; 55 percent (n = 143) of the men reported protege experience, compared to 49.5 percent (n = 104) of the women.


Due to the absence of research in this area, two willingness to mentor scales were specifically developed for this study. The instruments approached the willingness to mentor construct from two different perspectives. The first measure, intention to mentor, was global in nature and addressed the individual’s overall intention to mentor. The intention to mentor instrument was measured by two items: “I have no desire to be a mentor” and “I would like to be a mentor” (reverse-scored). The second measure, drawbacks to mentoring, was more specific than the intention to mentor scale, and focused on specific drawbacks and obstacles involved with assuming a mentoring role. The drawbacks to mentoring scale consisted of six items, and included such items as: “I do not have time to be a mentor”, “I would not want the risk of being put in a bad light by my protege’s failures”, and “I feel unqualified to be a mentor”. Both measures used a 7-point Likert-type scale (1=strongly agree to 7=strongly disagree). The appendix contains a complete listing of the items.


The means and intercorrelations for the variables are presented in Table 1. The coefficient alphas for the 2-item intention to mentor measure and 6-item drawbacks to mentoring measure were .81 and .83 respectively.

Tests of Hypotheses

Using procedures outlined by Cohen and Cohen (1983), hierarchical polynomial regression analyses were used to assess the hypothesis that a curvilinear relationship exists between age and willingness to mentor. The analyses, conducted for both the intention to mentor and drawbacks to mentoring measures, revealed no significant |R.sup.2~ changes for quadratic or cubic age functions (The quadratic and cubic age |R.sup.2~ changes were .0004 and .006 for the intention to mentor measure, and .0004 and .001 for the drawbacks to mentoring measure). The results, therefore, failed to support Hypothesis 2.

Hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the remaining hypotheses. This approach was employed because of the possibility that, in spite of the matching design, gender differences in mentorship experience, age, rank and organizational tenure might occur and confound gender effects in willingness to mentor. Women may have less experience as protegees (Cook, 1979; George & Kummerow, 1981; Halcomb, 1980), are typically found at lower TABULAR DATA OMITTED TABULAR DATA OMITTED ranks in the organization (Blau & Ferber, 1987), and as a group has entered the workforce later than men. Indeed, in our present sample, women were significantly younger (t = 2.77, p |is less than~ .01, df = 487), and had less organizational tenure (t = 5.73, p |is less than~ .001, df = 508) and rank (t = 2.97, p |is less than~ .01, df = 506) than their male counterparts, even though they were matched on these variables.(1) Therefore, in addition to investigating the impact of age, rank, tenure and mentorship experience on willingness to mentor, we also controlled for these factors when examining gender effects.

The predictors were entered hierarchically in the following order: (1) the linear and curvilinear age terms, job rank and tenure as a set, (2) experience in mentorship relationships, and (3) gender. The hierarchical analyses were run separately for the intention to mentor and anticipated drawbacks to mentoring measures.(2) Results of the analyses are displayed in Table 2.

The results of these analyses provided full support for Hypothesis 3. As predicted, rank was positively associated with both of the willingness to mentor measures; the significant positive betas indicate that higher ranking respondents were more likely to report intentions to mentor and were less likely to report drawbacks to mentoring than lower ranking respondents. Hypothesis 4 was not supported; while significant relationships were found between length of employment and both of the willingness to mentor measures, the relationships were in the opposite direction than expected. Organizational members with less organizational tenure reported stronger intentions to mentor and anticipated fewer drawbacks to mentoring than more tenured organizational members. Hypothesis 5 was strongly supported — mentorship experience accounted for a significant amount of the variance in both of the willingness to mentor measures. Significant positive betas were found for all three classifications of mentorship experience (experience as mentor, protege and both), with the highest beta found for individuals with both mentor and protege experience. The results indicate a positive relationship between willingness to mentor and prior experience in mentoring relationships.

Partial support was found for Hypothesis 1. Gender influenced the two willingness to mentor measures differently. In terms of our first measure, men and women did not significantly differ in their overall intention to mentor. However, gender differences were found in the second measure; women reported greater drawbacks to becoming a mentor than men. One exploratory question that arises when viewing these results is whether gender differences occurred across all types of items, or whether the differences were centered on specific drawbacks. A post-hoc analysis of the six items revealed that women were significantly more likely than men to report that they did not feel qualified to be a mentor (t = 2.92, p |is less than~ .01), that they did not want the risk of being put in a bad light by their protege’s failures (t = 2.77, p |is less than~ .01) and that they lacked the time to be a mentor (t = 2.76, p |is less than~ .01). Women were slightly more likely than men to report that the costs outweighed the benefits of being a mentor (t = 1.77, p = .08) and that they have enough trouble taking care of their own job without having to worry about others (t = 1.68, p = .09). Although women were somewhat more likely than men to report that they would be uncomfortable assuming a mentoring role, these differences were not significant (t = 1.58, p = .11).

A second question that arises when viewing these results is whether the underlying process of mentoring is the same for men and women. In other words, is the relationship between intention to mentor and drawbacks to mentoring the same for men and women? In order to answer this question, we conducted the regression analyses again and tested the interaction of gender and drawbacks to mentoring on the dependent variable of intention to mentor. The interaction was not significant. Similarly, we also tested the interaction between gender and intention to mentor with the drawbacks to mentoring scale as the dependent variable, and failed to find a significant interaction. The lack of significant interactions indicates that the relationship between anticipated drawbacks and intention to mentor is equivalent for men and women; both sexes expressed less intention to become a mentor when perceiving drawbacks to entering that relationship. While women may perceive greater drawbacks to mentoring than men, this perception apparently does not have a stronger impact on intention to mentor for women than for men.

One issue that arises when viewing the overall results of the study is whether the willingness to mentor responses were influenced by social desirability effects. In particular, one could argue that social desirability effects explain why women reported equivalent intentions to mentor as men, even though they anticipated greater barriers. However, it is clear that these effects do not explain why women anticipated greater drawbacks to mentoring in the first place. Moreover, if social desirability effects were operating, actual experience as a mentor would be unrelated to reports of willingness to mentor. The significant correlations that were found between experience as a mentor and the intention to mentor (r = .34, p |is less than~ .001) and the drawbacks to mentoring (r = .33, p |is less than~ .05) measures indicate that individuals who reported increased willingness to mentor were also more likely to have actually been mentors. The positive relationships between mentorship experience and the willingness to mentor measures suggest that social desirability should not be a serious concern for the present study.


A key finding of this study was that women expressed equivalent intentions to mentor as men, even though they anticipated more potential drawbacks and negative aspects of assuming a mentoring role. These results held even after controlling for differences in previous mentorship experience, age, rank, and length of employment.

Significant gender differences were found in three types of drawbacks to mentoring. First, the women in this study anticipated greater risks to becoming a mentor than the men. For women, assuming a mentoring role entailed greater visibility, and a corresponding increase in the potential for negative exposure. Second, even though the men and women in the study were matched on rank and position, the women reported having less time available to be a mentor. These time restraints may reflect greater job demands or other discriminatory factors facing women in organizations (e.g., Nieva & Gutek, 1981; Ragins & Sundstrom, 1989). Sutton and Moore (1985) found that a majority of male and female executives reported that women need to be exceptional to succeed, and that this sometimes requires that they work twice as hard as their male counterparts. Third, compared to their male counterparts, the women in this study were more likely to report that they lacked the qualifications to be a mentor.

It is important to note that by controlling for gender differences in rank, position, age, organizational tenure, and mentorship experience, the study also controlled for many potential gender differences in actual mentoring qualifications. Since gender differences in variables relating to qualifications were control led for, why did the women in the study report feeling less qualified to be a mentor than the men? One possibility is that the women may have lower self-confidence in their ability to fill the mentoring role because they view the mentor role as male-typed. Women may view the mentor role as male-typed because they themselves were more likely to have had a male, rather than a female, mentor (Cook, 1979; Ragins, 1989). Their own mentorship experience may therefore reinforce a “male model” of mentorship, which may have similar foundations to the “male managerial model” view of management roles (Schein, 1973). Future research could investigate whether mentor roles are associated more with male than female sex role stereotypes.

One interesting aspect of this study is that the intention to mentor and anticipated drawbacks to mentoring scales evidently tapped different perspectives of willingness to mentor, even though these measures were significantly correlated with each other and with the individual’s prior experience as a mentor. While we did not anticipate these relationships when developing the instruments, it is now apparent that individuals may maintain future intentions to mentor in spite of anticipated barriers to assuming that role. They may simply be willing to overcome these barriers in order to obtain a valued mentoring relationship.

These distinctions help clarify the findings of the present study. Specifically, women anticipated more drawbacks or barriers to becoming a mentor than men, but expressed equivalent intentions to enter that role in the future. One explanation for women’s persistent intentions to mentor in the face of barriers is the perceived importance of that social relationship. Recent theory and research suggests that interpersonal relationships are a key factor in women’s career development, and that women may place greater value on interpersonal relationships than men (Eagly & Wood, 1991; Gallos, 1989; Gilligan, 1982). This line of reasoning suggests that women may anticipate greater developmental benefits from being a mentor than men, particularly when the relationship involves the psychosocial roles of friendship, support and intimacy. Future research could assess potential gender differences in interpersonal benefits associated with mentoring relationships.

While women may intend to mentor in the future, specific gender-related obstacles to mentoring may prevent them from actually assuming that role. The impact of these drawbacks may be illustrated by the fact that the men in the study were nearly twice as likely as the women to report that they had experience as mentors. One reason why women may be less likely than men to become mentors is that mentoring may involve more drawbacks and barriers for women than men. However, two other factors may also contribute to gender differences in mentoring. First, if experience in mentoring relationships leads to future mentoring relationships, women may be caught in a cyclical situation where their lack of mentor experience impedes the development of future mentoring relationships. However, this explanation may not fully account for the gender differences in mentoring experience since the women in this study were nearly as likely as the men to have experience as proteges, and protege experience was related to willingness to mentor.

A second reason why women may be less likely than men to become mentors is that men may have a larger pool of available proteges than women. While men are likely to have both male and female proteges, women tend to have primarily female protegees. Erkut and Mokros (1984), for example, found that male students avoided selecting female faculty as mentors because they were seen as having less power and status than their male counterparts. Ragins and McFarlin (1990) found that while male mentors were perceived as role models by both male and female proteges, female mentors were perceived as role models by primarily female protegees. Future research could investigate these relationships.

In addition to gender, the results of this study indicate that a number of other variables may influence an individual’s decision to become a mentor. One key finding was the strong relationship between willingness to mentor and the individual’s prior experience in a mentoring relationship. Consistent with earlier research (Missirian, 1981) individuals with experience as a protege reported greater willingness to enter a mentorship role than individuals who did not have protege experience. Experience in a mentoring relationship may familiarize the individual with the advantages and rewards of becoming a mentor, and may increase the probability of assuming a mentorship role in future relationships. In an extension beyond previous research, the present study also found that individuals with experience as a mentor reported stronger intentions to mentor in the future, and anticipated fewer drawbacks to the mentoring role than individuals lacking this experience. Experience in mentorship relationships may therefore facilitate the development of future relationships.

Other variables also influence willingness to mentor, although the relationships are somewhat more complex. The present study found that rank is clearly a significant predictor of willingness to mentor; higher-ranking individuals reported stronger intentions to mentor and anticipated fewer drawbacks to mentoring than lower-ranking individuals. To the extent that rank correlates with career stage, this finding is in line with career development theories (Feldman, 1988; Hall, 1976, 1987; Kram, 1985) which hold that mentorship may be an important factor in mid-career stages. However, age and tenure, which were positively associated with rank and are usually associated with career stages, did not have similar effects. Counter to our expectations, organizational members with greater tenure reported less willingness to mentor than organizational newcomers, and age was unrelated to willingness to mentor.

One very simple explanation for these findings is that individuals with less tenure may be more idealistic and optimistic about the mentor role. A more complex explanation for the negative relationship between tenure and willingness to mentor is that some of the individuals with less tenure may be “fast trackers”. “Fast trackers” are high-performing, visible employees who are likely to be selected as proteges (Roche, 1979; Zey, 1984). Experience as a protege may sensitize “fast trackers” to the benefits of the mentorship role, and may lead them to seek this role in the future. Additionally, “fast trackers” may reach midcareer stages at earlier ages than other organizational members, and may therefore assume a mentorship role at an earlier age.

A complimentary explanation is that some individuals who have been with the organization for a very long time may be stalled in their careers and may have negative feelings about the organization. These individuals may be unwilling to undertake a mentoring relationship because they themselves were never mentored. It is clear that these relationships are complex, and that age and tenure are only partial indices of career stages. The present study does suggest that prior experience in mentoring relationships, position and rank may be better predictors of willingness to mentor than simply age or tenure. More research is clearly needed on the relationship between career stages, “fast tracking”, and decisions to enter a mentoring role.

Limitations and Future Research

The generalizability of this study may be limited by the sample and setting. The participants were highly educated white-collar professionals in research and development organizations. Our findings may not reflect less educated, lower-paid groups in manufacturing organizations. So the present findings must be seen as having potentially limited generality, pending replication in other settings and populations.

This study suggests a number of additional avenues for future research and theory development. Generally, there is little research or theory on the antecedents of mentoring relationships. Future studies could investigate the individual, interpersonal and organizational characteristics that prompt individuals to enter a mentoring relationship, and the impact of gender on these relationships. Individual variables that may interact with gender in affecting decisions to mentor include: self-efficacy, self-confidence, locus of control, and the perceived gender-typing of the mentor role. Previous mentorship experience is an important individual variable that warrants a longitudinal approach. Specifically, an interesting gender comparison would involve tracing the number, type and length of mentoring experiences over the course of men’s and women’s careers. Qualitative interview data would be particularly helpful for understanding the dynamics underlying the development of the mentoring relationship. Finally, organizational variable could also influence an individual’s decision to mentor. For example, the results of the present study suggest that women in female-typed organizations may be more willing to mentor than women in male-typed organizations because their visibility is less in female than male-typed organizations. The increased visibility of men in female-typed organizations may in fact create certain barriers to mentoring for them as well.

In conclusion, it is important for organizations to recognize that women may want to become mentors, but that a number of gender-related obstacles may prevent them from obtaining this goal. As role models and advocates, female mentors are an important resource for other women in organizations. Organizations can support this relationship by providing mentoring training aimed at increasing women’s self-perceptions of their qualifications, and by formally recognizing mentoring activities in performance appraisals and salary decisions. By legitimizing and rewarding the mentoring relationship, organizations can make the benefits of mentoring greater than the costs.

Acknowledgment: The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. This paper was presented at the 1991 National Academy of Management Meeting in Miami Beach, Florida, and received the Addison-Wesley Best Paper Award in the Careers Division.


“Please rate the extent to which you agree with the following statements about becoming a mentor.

If you are already a mentor, check here______ and answer this question in terms of how you would feel about entering this role again in the future.”

Intention to Mentor Measure

I would like to be a mentor.(*) I have no desire to be a mentor.

Drawbacks to Mentoring Measure

I would be uncomfortable assuming a mentoring role. I feel unqualified to be a mentor. The costs outweigh the benefits of being a mentor. I have enough trouble taking care of my own job without having to worry about others. I would not want the risk of being put in a bad light by my protege’s failures. I do not have the time to be a mentor.

Note: * item reverse-scored in analysis.

(Responses were measured on a 7-point scale: (1) strongly agree, (2) moderately agree, (3) slightly agree, (4) neither agree nor disagree, (5) slightly disagree, (6) moderately disagree, (7) strongly disagree. Subscales reflect simple summation across items.)


1. All t-tests employed two-tailed tests of significance.

2. Equivalent results were obtained with MANCOVA analyses.


Blau, F.D. & Ferber, M. A. (1987). Occupations and earnings of women workers. Pp. 37-68 in K. S. Koziara, M. H. Moskow, & L. D. Tanner (Eds.). Working women: Past, present, future. Washington, DC: The Bureau of National Affairs.

Bowers, A. G. (1985). Mentors and proteges in male-dominated corporate cultures: The experience of top-level women executives. Dissertation Abstracts International, 45(9): 3103B.

Brown, D. A. (1986). The role of mentoring in the professional lives of university faculty women. Dissertation Abstracts International, 47(1-A): 160.

Carden, A. D. (1990). Mentoring and adult career development: The evolution of a theory. The Counseling Psychologist, 18: 275-299.

Clawson, J. G. & Kram, K. E. (1984). Managing cross-gender mentoring. Business Horizons, 2(3): 22-32.

Cohen, J. & Cohen, P. (1983). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences, 2nd ed., Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.

Cook, M. F. (1979). Is the mentor relationship primarily a male experience? The Personnel Administrator, 24(11): 82-86.

Dalton, M. (1959). Men who manage. New York: Wiley.

Dalton, G. W., Thompson, P. H. & Price, R. L. (1977). The four stages of professional careers: A new look at performance by professionals. Organizational Dynamics, 6: 19-42.

Eagly, A. H. & Wood, W. (1991). Explaining sex differences in social behavior: A meta-analytic perspective. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17:305-513.

Erkut, S. & Mokros, J. R. (1984). Professors as models and mentors for college students. American Educational Research Journal, 21 (2): 399-417.

Erickson, E.H. (1963). Childhood and society, 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton.

Fagenson, E. A. (1988). The power of a mentor: Proteges and nonproteges’ perceptions of their own power in organizations. Group and Organization Studies, 13: 182-194.

Fagenson, E. A. (1989). The mentor advantage: Perceived career/job experiences of proteges vs. non-proteges. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 10:309-320.

Feldman, D. C. (1988). Managing careers in organizations. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.

Fitt, L. W. & Newton, D. A. (1981). When the mentor is a man and the protege is a woman. Harvard Business Review, 59: 56-60.

Feedman, S. M. & Phillips, J. S. (1988). The changing nature of research on women at work. Journal of Management, 14: 231-251.

Gallos, J. V. (1989). Exploring women’s development: Implications for career theory, practice and research. Pp. 110-132 in M. B. Arthur, D. T. Hall, & B. S. Lawrence (Eds.), Handbook of Career Theory. Boston: Cambridge University Press.

George, P. & Kummerow, J. (1981). Mentoring for career women. Training, 18(2):44-49.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Halcomb, R. (1980). Mentors and the successful woman. Across the Board, 17(2): 13-18.

Hall, D. T. (1976). Careers in organizations. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman & Co.

Hall, D. T. (1987). Careers and socialization. Journal of Management, 13(2): 301-321.

Hunt, D. M. & Michael, C. (1983). Mentorship: A career development training tool. Academy of Management Review, 8:475-485.

Jacques, E. (1965). Death and the mid-life crises. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 46: 502-514.

Kanter, R. M. (1977). Men and women of the corporation. New York: Basic Books.

Kram, K. E. (1985). Mentoring at work. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.

Lenney, E. (1977). Women’s self-confidence in achievement settings. Psychological Bulletin, 84:1-13.

Levinson, D. J. (1986). A conception of adult development. American Psychologist, 41:3-13.

Levinson, D. J. with Darrow, C. N., Klein, E. B., Levinson, M. H. & McKee, B. (1978). The seasons of a man’s life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Maccoby, E. E. & Jacklin, C. N. (1974). The psychology of sex differences. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Missirian, A. K. (1981). The process of mentoring in the career development of female managers. Dissertation Abstracts International, 41(8): 3654A.

Nieva, V. F. & Gutek, B. A. (1981). Women and work: A psychological perspective. New York: Praeger.

Ornstein, S., Cron, W. L. & Slocum, J.W. (1989). Life stage versus career stage: A comparative test of the theories of Levinson and Super. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 10:117-133.

Phillips-Jones, L. L. (1982). Mentors and proteges. New York: Arbor House.

Powell, G. N. (1988). Women and men in management. Newbury Park: Sage.

Ragins, B. R. (1989). Barriers to mentoring: The female manager’s dilemma. Human Relations, 42: 1-22.

Ragins, B. R. & McFarlin, D.B. (1990). Perceptions of Mentor Roles in Cross-Gender Mentoring Relationships. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 37: 321-339.

Ragins, B. R. & Sundstrom, E. (1989). Gender and power in organizations: A longitudinal perspective. Psychological Bulletin, 105: 51-88.

Roche, G. R. (1979). Much ado about mentors. Harvard Business Review, 57(1): 14-31.

Scandura, T. A. (1992). Mentorship and career mobility: An empirical investigation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 13: 169-174.

Schein, V. E. (1973). The relationship between sex-role stereotypes and requisite management characteristics. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57: 95-100.

Sofer, C. (1970). Men in mid-career. London: Cambridge University Press.

Solomon, E. E., Bishop, R. C. & Bresser, R. K. (1986). Organization moderators of gender differences in career development: A facet classification. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 29: 27-41.

Sutton, C. & Moore, K.K. (1985). Probing Opinions: Executive women -twenty years later. Harvard Business Review. Sept.-Oct.: 42-66.

Whitely, W., Dougherty, T. W. & Dreher, G.F. (1991). Relationship of career mentoring and socioeconomic origin to managers’ and professionals’ early career progress. Academy of Management Journal, 34: 331-351.

Zey, M. G. (1984). The mentor connection. Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin.

COPYRIGHT 1993 JAI Press, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group