Authors: Kimberly E. O’Brien, Andrew Biga, Stacey R. Kessler, Tammy D. Allen


O’Brien, Biga, Kessler & Allen investigate mentoring relationships in regards to the gender of mentors as well as the genders of protegees.

Mentors provide two functions: career development and psychosocial support.  In present time, most key positions of power in organizations are held by males.  Ragin and Sundstrom (1989) hypothesized that women had substantial obstacles regarding obtaining a mentor because they were constantly in low power positions.  This organizational barrier meant women may very well lack interaction with powerful mentors.  Past research has made it difficult to determine whether protegee gender plays a role in access to mentoring or to the amount of mentoring received, as it has received mixed support.

Hypothesis 1: Males and females are equally likely to report experience as a protegee.

Hypothesis 2a: Male protegees report receiving more career development mentoring than female protegees.

Hypothesis 2b:  Male protegees report receiving less psychosocial mentoring than female protegees.

Hypothesis 3: Males are more likely to report experience as a mentor than are females.

Hypothesis 4a: Male mentors report providing more career development than female mentors.

Hypothesis 4b: Male mentors report providing less psychosocial support than female mentors.


Literature Search: PsycINFO and ABI were searched using terms “protege, mentor, mentoring” 206 studies were identified that spanned from 1984-2007.

Criteria for Inclusion: Study must have been conducted in workplace setting, reported a Pearson’s correlation for an independent variable and dependent variable

Statistical Procedure: Lipsey and Wilson’s (2001) procedure for analysis

Variables Included in Analysis: Gender & Mentoring functions (career; psychosocial)


Hypothesis 1: Males and females are indeed equally likely to report experience as a protegee.

Hypothesis 2a: Male protegees did not report greater career development mentoring than females.

Hypothesis 2b: Female protegees reported greater psychosocial support than male protegees.

Hypothesis 3: Males were more likely than females to report as serving as a mentor.

Hypothesis 4a: Male mentors reported providing more career development mentoring than did female mentors.

Hypothesis 4b: Female mentors reported giving more psychosocial support than did male mentors.


Limitations in this study include a small number of primary studies as mentoring is a relatively new area of research.  Results suggest gender differences may be more prevalent among mentors than among protegees.  Significant results were largely consistent with existing theory but small in magnitude.

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