Absence of conflict of interest.
Dougherty, T. W., Dreher, G. F., Arunachalam, V., & Wilbanks, J. E. (2013). Mentor status, occupational context, and protégé career outcomes: Differential returns for males and females. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 83(3), 514-527. [Study 1, Contrast 2: other mentor versus no mentor]
- The study’s objective was to examine the role of informal mentoring on annual compensation, as well as the moderating effects of mentor status and gender. The authors investigated similar research questions in other studies, the profiles of which are available [here].
- The authors used statistical methods to analyze self-reported data on earnings, mentoring relationships, and employee characteristics collected through questionnaires administered to graduates of business programs at two large state universities.
- The study found no statistically significant difference in compensation between study participants with non-senior mentors and those with no mentors.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to informal mentoring; however, the study did not find any statistically significant effects.
Features of the Intervention
The study defined a mentor as “someone who holds a senior position and takes an active interest in developing your career. While it is possible for an immediate supervisor to serve as a mentor, this type of relationship represents a special opportunity to interact with a senior manager. The standard subordinate/supervisor relationship is not a mentoring relationship” (p. 518).
Features of the Study
The study authors used a questionnaire to collect data from graduates of undergraduate business programs in two large state universities in the United States (N = 356). Sample members were 35 years old, on average. Ninety-eight percent were white, 46 percent were female, and 38 percent had completed graduate degrees.
Treatment and comparison groups were formed based on questions about mentoring. Study participants were asked whether they had experienced a mentoring relationship in their careers to date. If so, they indicated the person considered to be their primary mentor, the characteristics of their primary mentor, and the nature of the mentoring relationship. For the contrast examined in this profile, respondents who indicated they had a mentor who was not senior and male (referred to as an other mentor) formed the treatment group. Those who did not indicate having a mentor formed the comparison group.
The authors used regression analysis to examine the relationship between mentoring and annual cash compensation. Control variables included gender, years with current employer, number of times the employee had changed companies since completing an undergraduate degree, completion of a graduate degree, self-reported family socioeconomic background while the respondent was still a dependent, number of career interruptions, and job level.
Earnings and wages
- The study found no statistically significant difference in compensation between employees with mentors who were not senior and male and those with no mentors.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The statistical model included an extensive list of control variables. However, the authors did not account for preexisting differences in earnings between the groups before the start of informal mentoring. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not informal mentoring—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. For example, if higher-earning employees are also more likely to seek out informal, non-senior mentors at work, any observed differences in the earnings of the two study groups could reflect this, rather than an impact of mentoring. However, this contrast did not exhibit any statistically significant differences.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to informal mentoring; however, the study did not find any statistically significant effects.