Mentoring Across Differences:
Readings and Articles

Cross‐gender Mentoring
Gersick CJG, Kram, KE. High‐achieving women at midlife. Journal of Management Inquiry. 2002; 11:104‐127.

A qualitative study based on in‐depth personal interviews in 1996‐97 focused on understanding the developmental path and life structures of 10 mid‐life (35‐55) women executives at a large NYC financial firm. Using Daniel Levinson’s model of development, the paper describes the women’s developmental efforts to find a life role in their 20s, manage career‐family trade‐offs in their 30s and 40s, and come into their own in their careers and personal life in their 50s and beyond. This paper is not about the mentoring process per se, but can be helpful to faculty mentors working with professional women as they find ways to integrate the different aspects of their lives at different stages in their careers.
(37 references)

Ibarra H, Carter NM, Silva C. Why men still get more promotions than women. Harvard Business Review. September 2010; Reprint R1009F:1‐6.

A report of the findings of a survey of 4000 high‐potential employees in multi‐national firms and interviews of 40 such employees from a single firm to explore the mentoring received by male and female employees. The study found that more women than men reported having mentors, but that over a two‐year period more men were promoted to higher‐level positions. The article distinguishes mentoring from sponsorship, with the former focusing on feedback and advice to the employee and the latter on strong advocacy within the firm for the employee, and reports that men were more likely than women to have such sponsors. It recommends corporate sponsorship programs for women if firms are to realize the potential of, and retain, high‐functioning women employees.
(4 references)


Intergenerational Mentoring
Howell LP, Servis G, Bohnam A. Multigenerational challenges in academic medicine: UCDavis’s responses. Academic Medicine. 2005; 80: 527‐532.

A very helpful article translating the different generational expectations and values mentioned by McNulty (see below) to the issues of the multigenerational work setting of the academic medical center.
(18 references)

McNulty EJ. Can you manage different generations? Harvard Business School Working Knowledge for Business Leaders, Reprinted from: It’s time to rethink what you think you know about managing people. Harvard Management Update February 2006; 11.

A brief piece on the different feelings about work and needs from the workplace of workers under 35, between 35 and 54, and 55 and older. The author suggests that managers be aware of each cohort’s different values and expectations in order to engage and retain talented workers. Take‐home points include the need to think about skills and expectations, tailor one’s management approach to workers in different cohorts, and facilitate mentoring to provide continued opportunities for middle‐aged and older workers while promoting the transfer of important knowledge to younger workers.
(One reference: the larger article from which this is taken)

Meister JC, Willyerd K. Mentoring millennials. Harvard Business Review. May 2010; Reprint R1005D; 1‐4.

This brief 2010 Harvard Business Review article characterizes millennials, the generation born 1977‐97, as wanting jobs that fulfill them personally; are an integral part of their lives; allow them to collaborate, make new friends, and learn new skills; and connect them to a larger social purpose. Millennials are academic overachievers who are committed to community service, and if they are engaged will work hard to overachieve at the job. The authors discuss the challenge of mentoring the large number of millennials now in the workplace (and an increasingly large part of the academic medicine workforce), who want frequent direct feedback to measure their success, and three types of innovative solutions are described: 1) reverse mentoring (in which senior managers and millennials are matched, each having responsibility for teaching the other), 2) group mentoring (by more experienced leaders or peer‐to‐peer learning groups), and 3) anonymous mentoring (via computer from a distant mentor outside the company).


Cross‐Race/Ethnicity/Culture Mentoring
Blake‐Beard S, Murrell A, Thomas D. Unfinished business: The impact of race on understanding mentoring relationships. Harvard Business School Working paper, 2006.

An interesting review of research on the interactions of race with various types of mentoring that outlines areas in need of further research. The paper reports that minorities have greater difficulty gaining access to any type of mentoring and that available mentors are usually white males, which can introduce interracial dynamics into the mentoring relationship. The article suggests that people of color develop two complementary mentoring networks, the first with whites (who provide access to resources and opportunities) and the second to people of color (who provide psychosocial and emotional support).
(117 references, 1 figure)

Ely RJ, Meyerson DE, Davidson MN. Rethinking political correctness. Harvard Business Review. 2006;84: 78‐87

This helpful article suggests that although political correctness has helped create more inclusive workplaces, it has also fostered tiptoeing around issues, breeding misunderstanding, conflict, and mistrust, and eroding productivity. This has created barriers to the direct, honest communication and feedback necessary for constructive collaboration. The article provides five “Principles for Constructively Engaging Differences,” which include resisting the urge to cast blame or feel defensive, asking questions to better understand others’ behavior, openly sharing your own perspective, questioning your own desire to be proven right about a perceived threat, seeking input from advisers who challenge your viewpoint, and asking yourself what changes you can make to improve workplace relationships.
(No references, two related readings)

Thomas, DA. The truth about mentoring minorities: Race matters. Harvard Business Review. 2001; 79: 98‐107.

Based on a study in three major corporations of minority and white executives and middle managers, Thomas distinguishes the career trajectories of minority executives from those of their white counterparts. Although high‐potential minority executives receive slower initial promotions than whites, those who eventually achieve executive positions have strengthened their skill base, developed a wide and diverse network of mentors, and gained confidence, competence, and credibility in the organization. The author discusses challenges in cross‐racial mentoring and suggests that they can be surmounted by development of a trusting mentor‐mentee relationships in which 1) the mentor and mentee can openly discuss racial issues, sensitivities, and realities; 2) the mentor can identify with the mentee and teach, advocate, and provide opportunities for the mentee; and 3) the mentor can help the mentee identify and link to other helpful mentors in the organization.
(No references; one related article is summarized.)

Additional Readings

The Consortium of Harvard Affiliated Offices for Faculty Development & Diversity has put together a list of Suggested Reading on Mentoring a Diverse Faculty that includes a wide variety of articles relating to this issue.