Can e-mentoring take the "gender" out of mentoring?


Mentoring has been identified as a key strategy for career development and organizational advancement, and has been argued to be indispensable for women to succeed. E-mentoring has increased in popularity as a means of reducing some of the challenges associated with being mentored by men. Numerous studies conducted on formal mentoring programs have concluded that there are serious implications to consider in traditional cross-gendered mentoring schemes. A sample of six mentees and seven mentors (three female and four male) were interviewed after a year-long e-mentoring program was created to promote women to leadership roles within the Information Technology (IT) sector. The paper explores whether gender-biases encountered in traditional mentoring schemes are transcended when using an e-mentoring platform. Results from this qualitative study suggest that mentor gender still impacts the mentoring relationship even in a virtual environment. The study’s findings indicated male mentors tended to be more methodological in solving problems with their mentees, unlike female mentors who took a more indirect approach. Further, female mentors improved their mentee’s confidence through encouragement and relating to their mentee on a more personal level, a practice often avoided by their male counterparts. A summary of these findings is provided below, followed by a detailed discussion of the results and a section offering possible future research avenues to explore.
Author biographies

Brittany V. Rockwell

Author photoBrittany V. Rockwell (University of Ottawa) has been a research associate under the supervision of Dr. Leck since 2010. Holding a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance from the Telfer School of Management, she has conducted research on topics pertaining to social capital, executive-level e-mentoring, and corporate governance. She has worked alongside organizations, such as Canadian Women in Technology (CANWit) and the CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN), to aid in the development and evaluation of programs designed to advance women to leadership roles within the IT sector. Since 2012, she has focused on various topics, such as the accessibility of social capital to executive-level advice for marginalized groups. Rockwell(at)

Joanne D. Leck

Author photoDr. Joanne D. Leck, PhD. (McGill University) joined the Telfer School of Management in 2000 as a professor of human resource management and organizational behaviour. Dr. Leck obtained a B.Math from the University of Waterloo in 1980, an MBA from McGill University in 1987 and a Ph.D. from the same university in 1992. Her thesis examined the effectiveness of employment equity programs and issues related to managing diversity. Dr. Leck's earliest work was an extension of her dissertation, where she continued to research employment and pay equity. After interviewing women who broke the glass-ceiling, she became increasingly aware of another problem women face in the workplace, namely bullying and harassment. As these working conditions may dissuade women from advancing in their careers, she turned her attention to this area of research. Most recently, she has been investigating how mentoring can not only protect women from any adverse forces but also provide them with the psycho-social and career support they need to advance. Dr. Leck is currently the Principal Investigator of two SSHRC grants supporting this mentoring research. In addition to her academic experience, Dr. Leck worked for several years at Air Canada in Information Technology and has provided training in negotiation skills and managing diversity for a variety of organizations, including Canada Post, Hydro Quebec, le Cirque du Soleil and the University of Havana. E-mail: leck(at) (Corresponding author)

Catherine J. Elliott

Author photoDr. Catherine J. Elliott, Ph.D. (University of Ottawa) has focused her research on improving organizational performance in three main areas: human resources, performance management, and women's entrepreneurship. In thearea of human resources, she has conducted research on mentoring and trust, adult learning, e-mentoring, and career development. In performance management (PM), she has been involved in the Interis Research cluster, investigating PM in the federal public sector. In women's entrepreneurship, she has co-authored several academic articles about gender and entrepreneurial identity. Professor Elliott teaches Organizational Behaviour, Human Resources Management and Organization Design in the undergraduate and MBA programs. Over the last 20 years, she has also worked as a human resource manager and management consultant. As an HR manager, she worked in a variety of corporate roles, across many functions, from executive recruiting to staffing. As a consultant, she provided services to federal government clients in training and education, career development, and change management. E-mail: elliott.young(at)

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