Study Finds Mentoring Not as Beneficial to Black Men as It Is for Whites

A new university research study finds that African American men do not receive the same benefits from corporate mentoring programs as Whites. The study examined data on 250 college-educated African American men to determine what factors were closely related to their professional success. The results showed that level of education, training, and willingness to move for new opportunities were the main factors leading to career success.

Lillian Eby, a professor of industrial/organizational psychology at the University of Georgia and a co-author of the study, explained that African American men tended to look for mentors who were also African Americans. She says that “if African-American men are picking mentors who are like them, then they are more likely to networking with people who have less power and influence within an organization, which may be why mentoring is not predicting career success for them.”

Co-author C. Douglas Johnson, an associate professor of management at Georgia Gwinnett College, summarizes the results by saying, “If you are willing to put forth the necessary effort and obtain the education and appropriate training, then you can achieve career success.” The authors advise against mentoring programs geared to particular racial or ethnic groups because they believe they tend to stigmatize the people they are trying to help by identifying them as needing extra help in order to succeed.

Dr. Johnson is a graduate of Clemson University. He holds an MBA from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

The study appears in the December issue of the Journal of Vocational Behavior.

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  1. The study adds credence to a situation which has always existed. As much as we try to help ourselves it continues to be the other race with the power.
    This does not mean that we should not seek mentors from within our race to benefit from the experiences of those who went before us. What it does mean is that we must be astute enough to recognize the purpose and potential benefit we can expect from each mentor.

    • I agree. In addition, from my experience in mentoring and coaching of students in Zimbawe, London, Dominica, and in Greenville, South Carolina, I have come to the conclusion that we need to examine more closely the match between black and non-black mentors and black male mentees more closely, and systematically, over time, and in different environments, and measure the factors, and qualities that contribute to their effectiveness.

      My siblings are all males. With great mentors we all succeeded educationally. My three brothers and I share eight university degrees.

    • Dr. Green is correct in his assessment. African American men and women must be astute and have a purpose and benefit of their mentors. However, in the final analysis, we must be prepared and have the will to move our career forward without compromising our values or perpetuating the stereotype that success only lies in the hands and power of our Caucasian counterpart. Just never stop learning and look for opportunities to learn from anyone who is willing to provide you with the appropriate or necessary knowledge.

  2. A mentor should be chosen on some basis of similarities and racial background is just one of them. There also a need for both mentor and student to get an opportunity to become acquainted before mentoring.

  3. Black males and females find it somewhat tricky to seek and find mentors. True, some potential Black mentors may not be in a position to promote one’s career. Still there are some who are reluctant to share any valuable information lest they be passed themselves. Many appear to be afraid to associate with others of their same race for fear of being stigmatized.
    Many find that seeking white mentors is a tricky path because we cannot be assured of them having our best interests at heart. This dilemma in itself can stymie career growth and advancement.

  4. The art of successful mentor-ship of African American Professional Men is in fact a skill. Dr. Johnson’s interpretation of the data seems accurate especially as it relates to the syndrome of Black men getting to a point in their careers where there are few available, high level/executive mentors for them. If a community does not have an organization that gathers high achieving Black men, then young high achieving Black men must acquire the skill of identifying, like minded, white allies to assist in their career development. It “ain’t” easy or fun!

    • The point is African American males and females should stop expecting things to be easy but difficult. The myth is that the war has been won, and it has not. African Americans regardless of education, experience, social status, income, etc. continue to work harder and achieve at higher levels with smaller rewards. Young African Americans should not take anything for granted but push harder than ever before to knock down doors to success. Use whatever strategies necessary, but do not be tricked into thinking that you have overcome. Just keep moving.

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