Mentoring and gender: Perception is not reality



Date of this version


Document Type



Gender, Mentoring, Perceptions



The purpose of this paper is to explore whether the disconnect between mentoring theory, which posits that women receive less workplace mentoring than men, and empirical results, which have found that women report equivalent or more mentoring received than men, is due to differences in perception rather than in actual mentoring provided.


Using an MTurk sample of working adults (n=251), a 2 (protégé/participant gender: male/female) × 2 (mentor gender: male/female) × 3 (amount of mentoring: high/medium/low) between-subjects experimental design was tested. This approach held relationship characteristics constant, allowing for an examination of the role of gender in mentoring perceptions.


Gender was associated with the way protégés viewed a mentoring relationship and their reports of mentoring received. When identical relationships were described, women were more likely than men to identify a senior colleague as a mentor, and protégés in heterogeneous gender mentoring relationships reported more mentoring received than those in homogeneous gender relationships.

Research limitations/implications

When examining mentoring, perceptual differences need to be considered before drawing conclusions.

Practical implications

This study calls into question findings of equivalent mentoring – refocusing attention on the importance of informal mentoring for improving women’s workplace outcomes.


Using an experimental design that holds relationship characteristics constant, this study is able to examine whether perceptions of mentoring are affected by gender. No study has previously done so, and results from the current study help to explain why there has been a disconnect between theory and empirical results.

Published in

Career Development International

Citation/Other Information

23, 346-359