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Mentor status, occupational context, and protégé career outcomes: Differential returns for males and females (Dougherty et al. 2013)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

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 2, Contrast 2: non-senior mentor versus no mentor]

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the role of informal mentoring on annual compensation, as well as the moderating effects of mentor status. 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 the software engineering department of a major aerospace manufacturing firm.
  • The study found no statistically significant differences between the earnings of employees 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.

Intervention Examined

Mentoring

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 managerial and professional employees of a major aerospace manufacturing firm in the United States (N = 348). Sample members were 39 years old, on average. Ninety-two percent were white, 3 percent were African American, 2 percent were Asian American, and the rest were Hispanic, Native American, or other. Sixteen percent were female, and 40 percent had earned a graduate degree.

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 in status (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 starting full-time work, completion of a graduate degree, self-reported family socioeconomic background while the respondent was still a dependent, number of career interruptions, and job level.

Findings

Earnings and wages

  • The study found no statistically significant differences between the earnings of employees with mentors who were not senior in status 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 lower-earning employees are also more likely to seek out informal mentors at work who are not senior in status, 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.

Reviewed by CLEAR

February 2020