Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Type

Professional Project - Restricted

Degree Name

Masters in Leadership Studies


College of Professional Studies


The purpose of this research was to examine the role and impact that mentoring has in the professional development of women, the overall upward mobility of women, and their ability to move into senior level leadership roles within organizations. Given the multitude of different barriers experienced by women historically, this research explored whether mentoring helps women to rise above these barriers including the proverbial glass ceiling to be able to advance in their careers. The research explored and examined the role of mentoring based on the mentoring relationship and experiences of women in middle management, how they perceive their career advancement opportunities, whether formal or informal mentoring relationships contribute to more positive career outcomes for women, and what they consider their organizations to be doing to support their advancement. This research used face-to-face interviews of women candidates in managerial/leadership positions in the Milwaukee area. The results of the interviews provided a point of view based on personal mentoring experiences, barriers experienced and the effects or impact on their ability to advance in their careers. This research also derived support from previous studies that when effectively designed and managed; mentoring makes a positive impact on organizations by yielding several benefits such as the attainment of salary increase, increase in managerial promotions, and greater career satisfaction (Hunter, 2011). This research addressed several critical questions, 1) Are women still experiencing barriers today that limits their upward mobility? 2) Do women experience different barriers and impediments than men? 3) Is there a correlation of mentoring to perceived career advancement for women? The Corporate Leadership Council (2004) research supports the premise that to help drive effective mentoring programs, organizations must recognize and understand the need to put in place comprehensive initiatives like mentoring to address perceived barriers hindering the advancement opportunities for women. The research further asserted that for mentoring to serve as a long-term solution to reduce barriers and the overall under-representation of women in management/leadership positions, these initiatives cannot be just paper initiatives, but supported by senior executives. The assumption from the research is that without senior management commitment, there is a risk that such initiatives will not be viewed as strategic priorities providing benefits to the company as a whole. The research supports that from a foundational perspective, it is extremely important for organizations to foster an environment that develops and sustains the natural occurrence of mentoring, especially with the increased demands for top talent and the need to develop that talent to meet the business needs of the organization resulting in a primary benefit to the organization. The benefit to the employees is that they become ready to take on more complex and higher level roles which can have a positive impact on their upward mobility. Results of this research project revealed there is a definite relationship to mentoring and job competence for participants in this study. However, because of the multitude of barriers (individual, organizational, home/family) experienced by women; opportunities for mentoring and networking are limited, which impacts their ability to gain the knowledge and skills (job competence) needed to advance in their careers. Direct interview data from this research also suggests that women indeed experience different barriers and impediments to upward mobility than men. Respondents reported that mentoring was very important to their career development, but they also indicated that it was sometimes difficult for them to obtain formal mentoring in their organizations.



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