Effects of Mentoring Programs

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Effects of Mentoring Programs on Women in Health Care Administration 11

Chapter 1


Background of the Study

Generally, health care is a woman's domain (Borkowski & Walsh, 1992). An estimated 75% of the United States health care labor force is claimed by women. In specific job descriptions such as in nursing and in dental hygiene, women dominate by more than 95 percent relative to their male counterparts. Clearly, health care employs a substantial population of women. Surprisingly, the disparity in career advancement toward managerial positions between males and females that exists in business is likewise reflected in health care administration.

Despite assertions that there have been considerable gains in achieving gender equity in the workplace, the fact remains that women in the twenty-first century have to break through the “glass ceiling” as did their earlier counterparts (Adair, 2002). The “glass ceiling” is a phrase that denotes the invisible and multilayered barrier that women encounter as they seek to advance in their careers within the organization. It is true that women are now comparable to men in terms of chances of getting accepted to the workforce. However, the process of getting promoted is an altogether different matter. Data suggests that less than 20 percent of positions above vice president are occupied by women (Woody & Weiss, 1994). As of 2002, only a very few of the CEO and presidents of private corporations were women, a fixture for the last thirty years. Moreover, a UCLA Anderson School of Management study also suggests that patterns in compensation among women have remained the same because women are still clustered at entry-level jobs (as cited in Woody & Weiss, 1994).

At present, there are women occupying management positions but only a handful of them have succeeded in achieving top-level positions. Adair (2002) explains that there are complex and varied barriers that hinder the advancement of careers among women. Determining what these barriers are and formulating policies and mechanisms to destroy such barriers are now foremost agenda in government and in the corporate world. These barriers may include the difficulty to manage home and family responsibilities with career goals (Haddock & Aries, 1989); lack of organizational commitment for women career advancement (Woody & Weiss, 1994); structural barriers that hinder the promotion of women such as job assignment or job tracking (Hamilton, 1993); and organizational culture that excludes women from interacting with and being at equal footing with male managers (Owen & Tudor, 1993). In a 1991 poll commissioned by Fortune Magazine, 201 CEOs were surveyed on the prospects of career mobility of women in private corporations. The survey found that it would take at least 20 years for a woman to become CEO of a company. Majority of the CEOs interviewed also opined that there was a very minor probability that a female would succeed them as CEO in the next ten years. The CEOs surveyed expressed that the most powerful barriers for women are sometimes beyond their control such as organizational culture and structural considerations. Succession in top-level management positions traditionally go to the men. Moreover, they opined that women are not placed in positions that would lead to the top of the corporate hierarchy. Women are far too concentrated in staff and human resource positions.

The prospects for women's career advancement in health care seem promising but men still claim more top management positions than women. In terms of educational qualifications, almost 50 percent of graduates from health care administration graduate programs are female (Borkowski & Walsh, 1992). Moreover, female graduates earn comparable salaries with male graduates. Despite this, experience would indicate that though males and females have more or less equal opportunities for entry in positions, they have unequal opportunities for career mobility in health care administration. Men assume management responsibilities and receive salary increases earlier than females do. As their careers progress, the prospects for advancement for females tend to decline while those for the males tend to expand. Like other occupations, women professionals in medicine are located in less prestigious an lower income fields such as pediatrics and nursing. Female appointments to hospital directorships and public or private health care corporations are few and far in between (Woody & Weiss, 1994). Hence, the status of career advancement among women in health care is a mirror of the general situation: despite the fact that females outnumber males in health care, the men dominate the top-level hierarchy. In addition, disparity exists with regard to the salary among men and women health care administrators. Borkowski and Walsh (1992) state that the salary gap among men and women in health care administration has widened to over $10,000 per year.

In order to break the “glass ceiling,” mentoring has been a widely suggested tool in assisting career development of women. While mentoring has been used as a general employee development tool available also to men, it is considered especially helpful to women as they get less support and encounter more barriers to career mobility than men (Noe, 1988; Ragins & Cotton, 1999). Blake-Beard (2001) suggests that the driving force behind the establishment of mentoring programs for women is because they face more interpersonal, family, and organizational barriers.

Studies suggest that the interpersonal nature of the mentoring relationship make it unique (Kalbfleisch & Davies, 1993). Kram (1983) says that mentoring features a relationship where the mentor (sometimes called preceptor, sponsor, or teacher) provides encouragement and counsel to a less experienced person known as the mentee or protégé. The mentoring relationship in the workplace is essentially a combination of the professional relationship and the personal relationship. Within this relationship are several stages of “coming together and coming apart,” and somewhere along the process, intimacy may be experienced on both sides (Kram, 1983). A mentor is said to have a two-pronged function. One function is career development which involves sponsorship, protection, providing visibility to others, and proving challenging job assignments. Another function is psychosocial support which involves the development of increased feelings of competence and self-identity within the organization. By providing a protégé support on these two aspects, mentoring is said to contributed to the mentee's self-confidence, rapport, decision-making skills, and a better understanding of organizational culture and structure (Burke, 1984).

Mentoring relationships are said to produce positive career outcomes. This explains why more and more private companies are now establishing their own mentorship programs as a human resource development strategy (Noe, Greenberger, & Wang, 2002). In fact, one of the criteria for selecting the “Best Companies to Work For” include the presence and strength of a company's mentoring program (Raabe & Beehr, 2003). Earlier studies on mentoring suggest a correlation with managerial mobility (Roche, 1979, as cited in Scandura, 1992). One of the earliest factorial analysis conducted by Kram (1985) found that mentoring enhanced work performance. Hence, this study expects that the extent to which managers experience a mentoring relationship results to greater career mobility and more positive career outcomes. Scandura (1992) defines career mobility in three separate measures: a) salary; (b) promotions or rate of advancement; and c) supervisory performance and evaluation. Several studies have indeed suggested that the manifold benefits of a mentoring program for employees include increase in job satisfaction (Mobley, Jaret, Marsh & Lim, 1994); higher rate of advancement (or promotion) (Dreher & Ash, 1990), and greater compensation in terms of salary, benefits, and bonuses (Dreher & Ash, 1990).

It is asserted that the establishment of mentoring relationships is more important to women's career development than to men's (Ruben & Halperin, as cited in Ragins & Cotton, 1999). In order to advance to top-level executive positions, women need to undergo mentoring as a way of seeking career and psychosocial support. In fact, the present situation highlights this case. Walsh and Borkowski (1992) report that women health care managers were more inclined to have mentors than male managers.

Mentoring programs operate under the concept of a senior professional promoting or assisting in the career development goals of a newcomer. Mentoring programs could either be of a formal or informal nature. Formal mentoring relationships occur when mentor and mentee are assigned into the relationship by third-party involvement (Murray, 1991). Informal mentoring relationships occur spontaneously and as a result of motivation and mutual identification of career development needs. Studies have suggested that formal and informal mentoring relationships produce different outcomes among mentees. Raggins and Cotton (1999) consider it crucial that the two types of mentoring be distinguished because the kinds of mentoring functions provided in each differ. Previous studies have generally favored informal mentoring relationship as a greater contributor to positive career mobility, outcomes, and advancement (Raggins & Cotton, 1991; Chao et al., 1992). Mentees under informal mentoring relationships are more likely to report higher salary increase and higher rates of advancement than those under formal mentoring programs (Raggins & Cotton, 1991). Although it is clear that formal and informal mentoring relationships differ in the mode of establishment and its length, there remains very little empirical research to examine the difference in formal and informal relationships in producing career outcomes for protégés for the duration of the mentoring relationship. Raggins and Cotton (1999) state that it is a mistake for many organizations to simply conclude without empirical basis that formal mentoring is just as good or as effective as informal mentoring when it comes to enhancing career development among employees. Kram and Bragar (1992) similarly warn organizations not to offer formal mentoring programs as substitute to employees.

The support for formal mentoring relationships have gained ground and are actually more popular among organizations. Corporations spend billions of dollars on formal mentoring programs and trainings to benefit prospective managers (Stromei, 1999). Empirical research has also been conducted to prove that formal mentoring reaps the same positive outcomes as informal mentoring relationships. Weinberg and Lankau (2010) conducted a longitudinal evaluative study of several formal mentoring programs and found that when formal mentoring relationships become long-term, it leads to the dissipation of cross-gender differences and greater psychosocial support.

Given these findings, it is uncertain which type of mentoring relationship is more effective in producing positive career outcomes. This study is particularly concerned with how the effects of mentoring relate to the career mobility and possibility of breaking the “glass ceiling” among women health managers. Presently, the literature on the differences in outcome of informal versus formal mentoring relationships is scarce especially as it relates to women health care administrators. If formal mentoring relationships are indeed less effective than informal mentoring relationships, then health care corporations and organizations may not be assisting women managers meaningfully in career advancement if they provide only formal mentoring opportunities.

Based on these premises, this study was conceptualized. The study aims to investigate the effects of formal and informal mentoring relationships on the career mobility and advancement of women in health care administration and identify possible differences in barriers that these women managers encounter in the course of the mentoring relationship.

Statement of the Problem

The aim of this study is to examine the effects of mentoring programs on mid-level and senior-level female managers in various health care organizations. First, it intends to determine the barriers that women health care managers face in their career advancement. Second, it aims to assess whether or not mentoring support has contributed to their career mobility. Lastly, it seeks to examine whether significant differences exist in the career outcomes of women involved in informal and formal mentoring relationships. Specifically, the research problems are hereby presented:

1. What is the profile of women health care administrators in terms of managerial level and type of mentoring program received?

2. What are the barriers to career mobility as perceived by women health care administrators?

3. What is the level of career mobility among the women health care administrators in terms of:

a) salary increases;

b) promotions; and

c) supervisory performance, ratings, and contributions?

4. Do women health care administrators who are mentees of formal mentoring programs report similar barriers in career advancement compared to those who are mentees of informal mentoring?

5. Do mid-level women health care managers report similar barriers compared to senior-level health care managers?

6. Does a correlation exist between the type of mentoring program received by women health care administrators and their level of career mobility?

Purposes of the Study

This study aims to evaluate the effect of formal and informal mentoring programs on the career mobility of women managers in health care settings. The study proceeds to fulfill a four-fold purposes, which are:

1. To examine whether or not women in healthcare administration who report being informally mentored identify the same perceived barriers to career advancement as women who reported being formally mentored.

2. To examine whether women managers in mid-level positions identify the same perceived barriers toward career advancement as managers occupying senior-level positions at the time of the mentoring relationship.

3. To determine whether a significant and positive correlation exists between the level of career mobility and the level of mentoring guidance for women in healthcare administration.

4. To determine whether a positive correlation exists between the level of career mobility and a formal mentoring program for women in healthcare administration.

5. To determine whether mentees in formal mentoring programs experienced significantly stronger career mobility than mentees in informal mentoring programs for women in healthcare administration.


This study is founded on several assumptions. First, the study assumes that mentoring is related to career outcomes. Due to its nature as a purposeful relationship that aims to bring about individual development and growth, theories related to mentoring have linked the process to career success (Kram, 1985). There are many specific processes that could explain why mentoring can bring about mentee success (Dreher & Ash, 1990). Mullen (1994) posits that mentoring is a process where information is exchanged and knowledge is acquired. In terms of providing meaningful and practicable work-related knowledge, career support that comes from mentoring allows individuals to access social networks and knowledge repositories that cannot be provided by formal channels of communication (Dreher & Ash, 1990). Gaining access into these social networks provides the mentee with the venue to present her skills and talents to powerful decision-makers within an organization. skills Since the career component of mentoring prepares the mentee for career advancement, logic would suggest that the mentee should achieve greater career outcomes than those without mentors.

Another assumption made in this study is that informal and formal mentoring relationships differ in terms of their effect on career advancement. As Kram (1985) suggests, whatever differences formal and informal mentoring have, they are not to be treated as “trivial.” Because informal mentoring assumes a more spontaneous nature, mentor-mentee relationships that are produced with this type of mentoring are more motivated and sustainable. Since mentor and mentee foresee mutual objectives and are able to support each other without outside intervention, greater effort is exerted by mentors to ensure that the mentoring relationship works, that it leads to the career success of the mentee. This assumption finds support in many literature that identify crucial differences between formal and informal mentoring based on the amount and extent of mentoring provided and its impact on the career outcomes of the mentee (Ragis & Cotton, 1999). Applied in the present study, the career outcomes of female health care managers involved in formal and informal mentoring relationships should have noticeable differences.


The present study aims to examine the effect of formal or informal mentoring experiences of women in career success and to identify perceived barriers to career advancement among those in middle management and senior management positions. As presented in Chapter 3, the study is descriptive-correlational in nature. It aims to describe the perceptions of 35 female health care managers occupying mid-level and senior-level positions on the barriers that prevent them from advancing to the top-level management or executive positions. It also intends to examine whether the type of mentoring programs women health care managers experience could be attributed to particular career outcomes such as higher salary increases and higher rate of advancement or promotion.

The first limitation is the sample size. While a bigger sample may be more desirable to the aims of the present study, costs and practicability issues limit the sample selection to just thirty-five (35). The second limitation is ethnicity. The study does not attempt to examine ethnicity as a variable for analysis. While it intends to include female managers who are of minority descent, a distinction is not made to explore whether White or minority women health care managers would differ in their perceptions and their career outcomes as a result of mentoring. The possibility of extending the design to include the ethnicity variable is a good prospect for future research work.