Mentoring Programs for Women and Minorities: Study Reveals Opportunities for Improved Effectiveness

Did you have a mentor who made a significant difference in your career development? Take a moment to think about the specific ways that this person influenced your path and took the time to offer vital support.

According to a new survey by Heidrick & Struggles, women and ethnic minorities find formal mentoring programs valuable to their careers. However, companies can improve their programs to assist this important employee base. In a survey of more than 1,000 professionals in North America, Creating a culture of mentorship reveals why mentoring is instrumental in supporting, developing and retaining talent while offering specific actions leaders can take to improve mentoring effectiveness and usefulness.

Survey Findings

The survey found that of the 27% of respondents who said their organizations offer formal mentoring programs, nearly three-fourths (74%) of minority respondents participated compared with 65% of respondents overall. Findings indicated that formalizing the mentoring experience can be a key tool in helping this important employee base accelerate their careers and achieve professional growth.

Women and minorities were more likely to say that mentoring was extremely important to their careers; 30% of women said their mentoring relationship was extremely important compared with 23% of men, and 32% of minorities found it extremely important compared with 27% of the overall sample. Further, minorities were more likely to say they found a mentor on their own at 25% compared with 18% of the overall sample, suggesting their organizations could benefit from establishing tools and forums to help them succeed in finding a mentor.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Minority respondents were more likely to say that they formed primary mentoring relationship when they were in middle management (15% vs. 9% of the overall sample) and that they were currently in middle management (29% vs. 19%). The findings suggest an opportunity to engage minority talent with mentors at an earlier stage in their career and that minorities may need more support at the middle-management level.
  • A significant portion of respondents noted they were interested in mentors alerting them to opportunities inside their organization (37%) and getting connected with others who could help them advance in their careers (33%), indicating they may be seeking sponsorship versus mentorship. While mentorship and sponsorship are often used interchangeably, a sponsor advocates for someone’s career advancement directly, while a mentor provides advice.
  • Mentor-mentee relationships are not long-term. Most respondents said their primary mentoring relationship lasted five years or less; just 8% said the relationship lasted 15 years or longer.
  • Most professionals (56%) are motivated to engage with their primary mentoring relationship because they aspire to reach a similar point as their mentor in their own career. Other motivators included seeking a sounding board for advice and decisions (47%), situation similarities (40%), and sharing a similar background with their mentor (34%).
  • While men are more likely (84%) to report that their primary mentor was a man and women are more likely to report that their primary mentor was a women, this is changing as a new generation enters the workforce. In this survey, 86% of respondents older than age 60 and 65% of respondents aged 51-60 had male mentors, whereas just 54% of respondents aged 21-25 had male mentors.

For additional information about, see the complete Heidrick & Struggles Creating a culture of mentorship report.

Share Your Experiences About Mentors

If mentors made valuable contributions to your career or life, take a few minutes to honor them. Post a tribute on Artsphoria Magazine, and share these findings and your stories about mentoring programs with others now!

About Andrea Hammer 209 Articles
Andrea K. Hammer, founder and director of Artsphoria Magazine, is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer. She has published articles in international publications. Through this expanded edition of Artsphoria, she invites fellow artists, writers, innovators and creative thinkers to join our conversation!