Academic journal article Advancing Women in Leadership

Women's Talk about Mentoring and Socialization in Local Policies

Academic journal article Advancing Women in Leadership

Women's Talk about Mentoring and Socialization in Local Policies

Article excerpt

Research on mentoring and socialization in organizations determined that there are benefits to mentors, protégés, and organizations derived from these relationships (Burlew, 1991; Kram, 1983). However, previous research largely ignores mentoring and socialization at all levels of politics and political organizations and this study attempts to address this oversight. I pose questions about the extent to which women are mentored in local politics and political organizations. If they are being mentored, who is doing the mentoring? Are they being socialized into politics and political organizations and, if so, by whom? A total of nine women were interviewed and shared their experiences of mentoring and socialization in local politics. Interviewees ranged in age from the early 30s to the late 70s and from School Board to Mayor.

Keywords: mentoring, socialization, politics, and women in politics


This study focuses on women in politics. Specifically it addresses some questions about women in local politics. Why are so few women elected to office in the United States? Why do women elected to local office not advance through the ranks up to the national level? Is there something about politics that makes women decide not to get involved or not to continue their involvement? Or are women being largely ignored in politics, leading them to drop out? Scholars and practitioners of organizational communication have been studying relationships and processes that are beneficial to employees within organizations for several decades. Many have noted a relationship between tangible benefits such as promotions and pay increases with mentoring and socialization.

Despite the widespread interest in mentoring and socialization and the benefits to all parties involved, not much research has been done in the area of politics. What little has been done with politics and socialization focuses on political socialization within the family (McDevitt & Chaffee, 2002). Little has been written about mentoring and socialization in political organizations or in politics and even less about women running for office. Research on mentoring of political candidates is virtually nonexistent. In this study, I address some of the questions about mentoring and socialization of women in local politics by giving rise to the women's voices. I ask questions about mentoring and socialization of women in local politics in two counties: one Southeastern and one Northeastern. First, I summarize the existing literature on mentoring and socialization. Next, I explain the methodology and participants. Then I analyze the data, and finally I conclude with a summary of my findings, implications, and future research in this area.

Literature Summary

An analysis of mentoring and socialization in political organizations must include some consideration of previous work in these areas. As previously noted, not much has been written about mentoring and socialization in politics; I make a leap and examine organizational literature. The following offers a representative rather than exhaustive review of the literature in these areas.

Mentoring has been of interest to researchers and practitioners for several decades, beginning in the 1970s. Mentoring is important in helping to assimilate new members into an organization. The dyadic relationship of mentoring is beneficial to new people: it helps them assimilate an organization's culture, gain access to influential people, and navigate the otherwise rough terrain (e.g. Kram & Isabella, 1985). Research also suggests that there is a relationship between mentoring and promotions and pay increases. Indeed, mentoring, or lack thereof, may very well be the most important determining factor of an individual's career path. The importance of mentoring has been recognized in producing positive gains for workers. Mentoring relationships have also been noted to help in socialization.

Socialization differs from mentoring in that it is not relational. …

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