"Mentoring is something of a mantra in the corporate world," says Stacy Blake-Beard, an assistant professor at HGSE and an organizational psychologist, with a wry smile. "It's a magic term."
As an employee at Proctor and Gamble more than a decade ago, Blake-Beard wondered how such a large and international company could better attract people of color and keep them once they got in the door. Only about 20 of 400 people with whom she attended a conference on her first day on the job were people of color, she says. During a later tenure at Xerox, Blake-Beard discovered "the missing link of mentoring"thanks to the support she received from her supervisor and a senior colleague. "My supervisor, who happened to be a white male, showed me the ropes of the company from the very beginning," says Blake-Beard. "Being mentored by a senior colleague who, like me, was a black female, was inspirational. Her ascent within the company was testimony to how a woman of color had broken through the glass ceiling."
The Changing Definition of Success, through Mentoring
Blake-Beard and the HGSE doctoral student whom she mentors, Eileen McGowan-Demers, recently studied the Financial Women's Association (FWA) High School Mentoring Program, which links low-income minority youth in an urban New York high school with professional businesspeople. "We took an established mentoring program involving mostly older white women and young girls of color and examined it on a number of levels," says Blake-Beard.
FWA's primary goal of preparing its protégés for college was a success, Blake-Beard and McGowan found, because of the program's structured activities that ranged from SAT preparation workshops to tours of Wall Street and local colleges. The mentor-protégé relationships that worked best, says Blake-Beard, were those where the mentor had a keen appreciation of and sensitivity to family and cultural background of the protégé.
One of Many Answers
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HGSE News, Harvard Graduate School of Education