The role of female mentoring relationships in the achievement of tenure



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Professional women striving to attain tenure face multiple obstacles, both professional and personal. The leadership and communication styles of women, along with society’s roles and expectations of them, can deter their efforts in achieving tenure. In addition, the traditionally patriarchal system of management in higher education continues to challenge the advancement of women to tenure fulfillment. While there are multiple mentoring programs in business environments, there are limited mentoring programs for women in higher education. It is necessary to generate new opportunities to strengthen the development and success of women on the tenure track. Through constructivism and a case study format, this qualitative study explored six women's experiences and perceptions with female-to-female mentoring relationships within the realm of higher education, and the extent to which these relationships benefited women who pursued and achieved tenure. In addition, the study sought participants’ recommendations for successful female-to-female mentoring relationships and programs. The data collected revealed three emerging themes: mentoring experiences, mentoring relationship recommendations, and roles of mentoring relationships and programs. Based upon the findings of the study the researcher concluded that female-to-female mentoring relationships can help to address the issues both identified in the existing literature, as well as experienced by the participants during their tenure process. Additionally, there is a need for senior female faculty willing to create mentoring relationships to be recognized for their efforts, including mentoring as an aspect of faculty members’ service expectations. Finally, it is important for institutions to establish opportunities for women to meet with one another in a planned gathering to provide opportunities to create naturally-occurring mentoring relationships. Based on the findings of this study, future research opportunities might include quantitative studies to address the impact of barriers on women’s attainment of tenure, and specifically ways in which mentoring relationships may have or can provide support. Additionally, a qualitative study exploring the reported disparity between the competitive nature of female relationships in higher education versus the descriptions in this study of nurturing mentoring relationships could benefit existing research as well. Finally, a constant comparison study exploring the characteristics of successful female mentors could provide clarity regarding the makeup of thriving mentoring relationships.



Women, Higher education, Mentoring, Tenure attainment