Psychosocial and Career Mentoring: Female African American Social Work Education Administrators' Experiences

By Simon, Cassandra E.; Perry, Armon R. et al. | Journal of Social Work Education, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Psychosocial and Career Mentoring: Female African American Social Work Education Administrators' Experiences


Simon, Cassandra E., Perry, Armon R., Roff, Lucinda L., Journal of Social Work Education


MENTORING HAS BEEN espoused as a critical component in advancing the careers of new faculty, especially persons of color and women in academia (Perna & Lerner, 1995). Yet, the limited body of literature available does not reflect mentoring's stated importance to women of color in higher education, including social work academia. Recent attempts to investigate the role of mentoring in social work education (Wilson, Valentine, & Pereira, 2002), and more specifically its role in the careers of African American female administrators in social work education (Simon, Bowles, King, & Roff, 2004) provide some insights, while raising more questions for exploration. The current study contributes to better understanding the mentoring experiences of African American female administrators in social work academia as both mentors and as protegees. Career and psychosocial mentoring behaviors are examined within the contexts of race, gender, and career stage. In closing, the findings' implications for mentoring in social work education and future research are presented.

Mentoring in Context and Social Work Education

Using a variety of terms--sponsorship, networking, coaching, and role modeling--mentoring has become a strategy used by employees for career upward mobility. Lacking a generally agreed upon definition, mentoring is usually discussed within the context of the mentoring functions. Psychosocial and career functions are thought to collectively provide proteges with skills, knowledge, opportunities, and support often needed for successful careers and advancement in organizations (Kram, 1988).

Psychosocial mentoring functions operate at an interpersonal level and can assist proteges in developing healthy self-images of their academic and nonacademic selves. Influencing proteges on a personal level, psychosocial functions of mentoring include such behaviors as demonstrating positive regard, being friendly, role modeling, acceptance, confirmation, and counseling (Simon et al., 2004). In an academic setting, this might reflect itself in such activities as helping balance career and family responsibilities, providing encouragement, and demonstrating sensitivity and concern. Career functions of mentoring operate at organizational and system levels, usually referring to the more objective aspects of mentoring that assist proteges in entering and navigating organizational structures. Academically, this may include activities such as educating the protege on negotiating organizational barriers, assisting in research and scholarship, including the protege in significant professional activities, making the protege known to others, helping in the development of professional goals and priorities, and giving concrete assistance in new tasks.

The literature on mentoring in social work education is scarce. Of 340 social work educators surveyed in Robbins' study (1989), only 33% reported ever receiving mentoring. Mentored assistant professors in her study had more co-authored scholarly articles than non-mentored faculty. Additionally, mentored male social work faculty produced more scholarly co-authored articles while mentored female faculty authored more books. Wilson, Valentine, and Pereira (2002) conducted survey interviews with 18 new social work educators. They concluded that mentoring did provide benefits, especially in teaching and research. Additionally, they highlighted mentor-protege matching, mentor characteristics, mentoring roles, and the mentoring process as important factors for consideration. More recently, Simon and colleagues (2004) reported on a survey conducted with 14 female social work education administrators. Although many of the participants in their study did not have mentoring opportunities as a part of their early careers and were successful, race and gender were identified as having important implications for mentoring in academia.

Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Mentoring

Gender and race both serve as organizers in U. …

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Psychosocial and Career Mentoring: Female African American Social Work Education Administrators' Experiences
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