Women Managers to Women Employees: Helping Hands or Competitive Jerks?

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit


Publication Date



Purpose – The purpose of this study was to determine whether there was a difference between same vs opposite sex pairings in the mentor-protege´ relationship when it comes to salary and levels within the organization.

Design/methodology/approach – Data were collected from 612 manager/non-manager dyads with all non-managers being female. The organization was located in the Northwest section of the United States and was a large Fortune 500 manufacturing firm. All levels of the organization were utilized from entry level positions to vice presidents to measure how women fared under female vs male mentors.

Findings – Women with female mentor supervisors earn less than with male mentor supervisors. The disparity is even greater the younger the proteegee.. If the trend shown in this research continues, wages may drop for women in high levels of the organization with same- sex mentees.

Research limitations/implications – One limitation of this research is the operationalization of a manager as a mentor. Supervisors were used as the mentor in most examples. Even if the participants in the study had self-selected their mentors, it would still be expected that the participants would be successful. Another limitation to this research is that there was no direct assessment of the perceptions of the mentor/proteege relationship among the participants. More research needs to be done to understand why these trends were found which might include looking at personality traits, various characteristics, immutable traits, etc. Additionally, experimental longitudinal research should be done to arrive at a definitive conclusion. This research provides the impetus to study the phenomenon cross culturally, outside of the northwest and outside of the USA, etc.

Practical implications – The practical implications for management may be that having women moving up the organizational hierarchy without the appropriate pay increase may save the company money in labor costs. But, as women recognize the disparity in income, they may request opposite sex mentors vs same sex mentors which may be a self-limiting factor for organizations promoting women into higher level positions in the organization. Therefore, they may promote fewer women which would decrease their diversity efforts.

Originality/value – Many researchers have reviewed the relationship between a mentee and a more seasoned organizational member. Formal and informal mentoring systems have been studied as well reviewing many variables. The research reviewing same vs opposite sex pairings in the mentor/proteege relationship demonstrates conflicting findings. This paper tests the result in salary and organizational level that the female protege rises to if they have a female mentor vs male mentor.


This article was originally published in Gender in Management. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download through ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Gender in Management: An International Journal


Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited