Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Flexible Mentoring: Adaptations in Style for Women's Ways of Knowing

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Flexible Mentoring: Adaptations in Style for Women's Ways of Knowing

Article excerpt

This study examines the influence of epistemology on women's perceptions of the workplace, themselves, and their work, and the relationship of these perceptions to career mentoring. Three epistemological categories, based upon theoretical definitions provided by Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule (1986), in Women's Ways of Knowing, are identified and tested for differences in workplace perceptions and mentoring relationships: constructivists, proceduralists, and subjectivists. The sample is drawn from the membership of American Women in Radio and Television (AWRT) (n = 454). The three groups differ significantly in perceptions of self-efficacy, career opportunities, and effective mentoring roles and similarities that exist between mentor and protege. Personal, in-depth interviews with 41 women in broadcast management provided texture to findings from the quantitative data.

The need for advisement is never outgrown, nor, from the point of view of women's deep creative life, should it ever be.

This [advisement] is gained from actual women in the outer world who are

older and wiser and preferably who have been tempered like steel; they are

fire-hardened for having gone through what they have gone through.

Regardless of the cost even now, their eyes see, their ears hear, their

tongues speak, and they are kind (Estes, 1992, p.181).

Background

This study examines the influence of epistemology on women's perceptions of work, themselves, and mentoring. The intent is to help women define what they require in a mentor in order to achieve success. The study examines appropriate roles of mentors for women based on how women protegees learn. It analyzes the mentoring relationship for important similarities between protegee and mentor, in response to research suggesting future directions for mentoring study (Noe, 1988; Burke, McKeen, & McKenna, 1993).

Women in broadcasting and allied careers constitute the study group, considered representative of American working women in that they share workplace practices and policy in such areas as hiring (influenced by equal-opportunity legislation) and management styles. They have in common the need to balance career and personal relationships (such as family), and like many working women, most have a need to achieve self-defined success.

Mentoring

Mentoring took on new dimensions when women entered traditionally male careers (Noe, 1988; Dreher & Ash, 1990; Stonewater, Eveslage, & Dingerson, 1990). Research focused on women in mentoring relationships provides evidence that one or more mentoring relationships result in the same benefits for women as for men -- benefits such as greater job success and job satisfaction (Noe, 1988; Gaskell & Sibley, 1990; Dreher & Ash, 1990) and perceptions of having personal power and influence within their organizations (Fagenson, 1988). How such a mentoring relationship is constituted is left undefined, except to explain that most such relationships are "informal" (Noe, 1988). The functions of a mentor have been defined (Kolbe, 1994; Schockett & Haring-Hidore, 1985), but how mentor and protegee are to find the right fit is left to chance.

Research from the mentor perspective indicates that mentor-protegee similarities contribute to more career development and psychosocial function between mentor and protegee, with psychosocial being a more important function for women who are mentored than for men (Burke et al., 1993). Women seeking mentors face barriers that men do not, the result of fewer females having made it into sufficiently high-level, executive positions to guide or advise (Noe, 1988). Women who are available for mentoring other women are also "strangely absent" because of fears of not having all the answers, or because of a limited view of mentoring. This narrow view of how to mentor is based on the male model the women, themselves, have experienced (Parker & Kram, 1993; Kolbe, 1994). …

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