A regional study of gender differential perceptions of mentoring functions in accessing the superintendency

Lisa Monette Hall


Women dominate the field of education as teachers, elementary school principals, and central office employees. However, there remains a disparity among men and women serving in the capacity of superintendent. Research indicates that effective mentors provide valuable career and psychosocial assistance for aspiring superintendents as they progress in the profession from induction to independence (Kram, 1983; Pavan, 1986; Shakeshaft, 1987, 1989). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to gather data on female and male superintendents involved in a same-gender or cross-gender mentoring relationship and to examine the perceived helpfulness of career and psychosocial mentoring functions as provided by their mentors in regards to career advancement. Questions in relation to prior mentor and protege position, gender, and differential perceptions of career and psychosocial mentoring functions were posed. Two hundred male and female practicing superintendents from the southeastern region states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida were initially surveyed. Data were collected with a questionnaire, The Career and Psychosocial Mentoring Functions Instrument, that is separated into two sections. Section I poses demographic questions. Section II consists of items pertaining to the mentor's helpfulness regarding career advancement. A group of 19 male and 20 female proteges indicated having been involved in a same-gender or cross-gender mentoring relationship. No statistically significant differences were found between combined mentor/protege group scores. However, the study revealed statistical significance between the combined group scores for sponsorship, exposure, and friendship. One implication for future proteges, mentors, and educational organizations is that if women and men are to be provided the same opportunities for career advancement, the nature of the mentoring relationship must be carefully examined, specifically, the dynamics of the mentoring relationship and the expectations and responsibilities of both the protege and the mentor. The attempts currently being made to infuse formal mentoring programs in the corporate world coincide with many of the same goals that evolving state and district leadership mentoring programs purport. If the quality of mentoring relationships among novice school administrators in terms of psychosocial and career support is recognized, then a greater understanding of ways in which mentoring functions can assist women and men in education administration access the superintendency is actualized.