Male vs female: Which mentor is best?

Published: January 24, 2018 / 0 Comments

Male vs Female Mentor

Female mentors appear to be better role models, but male mentors may be better at leading the way to the top of the corporate ladder.

Key takeaways

  • For employees looking to get corner-office jobs, men, who still occupy more of these positions than women, can open the right doors.
  • Having “been in the trenches themselves”, female mentors may have a better understanding of the issues faced by other women in a male-dominated workplace.
  • Where men tend to be more data driven, process oriented, and stress tolerant, women draw on both logic and emotional intelligence when making decisions.
  • Ultimately, the choice of male or female mentor should be based on your own developmental needs at that particular point in your life and career.

One of the most basic questions in the mentor-selection process is whether to be mentored by a man or a woman. The answer is not straightforward. While some experts and execs believe male mentors can offer the best resources to women, others feel that female mentors can offer a better understanding of specific issues that mentees need to know. Still others feel that gender should not be a deciding factor for mentorship.

The table below provides an at-a-glance summary of the benefits of both…

MALE MENTORS FEMALE MENTORS
Men tend to have historical relationships to tap that may be less available to their female colleagues – like membership in the “old boy’s club.” The right men can open doors and influence other men. Women face unique challenges in the business world. Men may have difficulty relating to these challenges or feel uncomfortable discussing them in a male-to-female mentoring relationship.
While women make up over half of all managers, significantly less of them make it to the corner office. As a result, male mentors may be better at leading the way to the top of the corporate ladder. Women can relate to other women. From toxic workplaces to confidence issues, women mentors are great at addressing and validating the emotional aspects of decision-making that many women face in their work lives.
In general, men tend to be more data driven, process oriented, and stress tolerant than women. Studies also show that they are better at networking, risk taking and exercising both assertiveness and emotional control. All of these traits are powerful workplace tools that mentees can learn from male mentors. While men may be logical and practical when it comes to making decisions, women draw on both logic and emotional intelligence. And, although both men and women are intuitive, women are generally more receptive to their intuition. This helps female mentors recognise issues and concerns that mentees may have buried deep within them.
Men tend to be confident in their abilities and performance and are more likely than women to see themselves as qualified for a promotion. This self-assurance – an important trait that they can pass onto mentees – leads them to seek out new opportunities, go after new clients and make themselves more visible to managers. Such self-belief is also a key factor when it comes to building resilience in the face of challenges and setbacks. With their focus on cooperation over competition, women are more likely to band together. A study published in Economic Journal found that women actually compete more willingly and perform at a higher level when they’re on a team. Firms with more women on their boards (and hence in potential mentor positions) see this effect, getting significantly higher returns on sales, invested capital and equity.

Women are better role models; men open more doors. Women are intuitive and cooperative; men are data driven and stress tolerant. As you can see, both sexes have their positives and there’s no hard and fast answer as to which makes the best mentor. Ultimately, experts agree that the decision to go one way or the other should be based on your own developmental needs at a particular point in your life and career.

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