Mentoring benefits uneven across races

man listening to boyInteresting, if counter-intuitive, research on the implications of mentoring, from the department of psychology:

Networking within an organization and having a mentor are widely thought to promote career success, but a new University of Georgia study finds that African-American men don't receive the same measurable benefits from these professional connections that Caucasians do.

Study co-author Lillian Eby, a professor in the Industrial-Organizational Psychology Program in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, said the finding shouldn't discourage African Americans from seeking mentoring and networking opportunities. Rather, it emphasizes the need for women and minorities to think broadly about the mentors they choose and with whom they network. People tend to have professional and social networks that are composed of people who are similar to them, she explained, and African Americans remain underrepresented in high-level positions.

That last point is probably the key takeaway; different groups lack a critical mass of members in every occupational group, and the situation perpetuates because of fewer role models for young people. We see this in any number of professions - African American college-level professors in the hard sciences; women in elected office at the federal level; minorities of every stripe as CEOs.

Career success is dependent on many factors, but as students at UGA or any large liberal arts-oriented institution gain exposure to a variety of disciplines and subjects, gain new interests about the world and move closer to discovering their career paths, they need to be able to find people like themselves in the positions to which they aspire. When they do, they can more easily visualize themselves in that position, however lofty. When they do not, they may re-aim, and in so doing, aim lower. When this is the case, nobody wins. As the release points out and the author herself suggests, the more mentoring continues to happen across racial and gender groups, the more likely we will be to see the positive effects of mentoring more equally across all groups.

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