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                                    MENTORING IN THE MILITARY: 
                                   Mary Maureen Sullivan, LCDR
                                   United States Naval Academy
                                     Topical Research Intern
                                           Summer 1993
                     LCDR Mary Maureen Sullivan, USN, assigned to the United 
                States Naval Academy, served as a participant in the Topical 
                Research Intern Program (TRIP) at the Defense Equal Opportunity 
                Management Institute from June 23 to July 22, 1993.  The 
                Institute thanks LCDR Sullivan for her contributions to our 
                research efforts in the inauguration of the Service Academy 
                Faculty Experience (SAFE-TRIP) Program.
                                           September 1993
                     The positive effects of mentoring relationships in private 
                industry are well established (Roche, 1979) and are frequently 
                associated with successful career development and a greater 
                degree of self-efficacy among proteges (Lunding, Clements & 
                Perkins, 1978).  Burke (1978) described four organizational 
                functions that can be influenced by the mentoring process:

                1. Job performance
                     The mentoring relationship may produce a synergistic effect 
                that enhances the performance of both the mentor and mentee. 
                2. Career socialization
                     Adaptation to an organization's culture and learning about  
                informal norms can be facilitated through the mutual exchange of 
                information between the mentor and mentee.
                3.  Upward mobility
                     New employees with excellent potential can be developed  
                through diverse mentoring strategies.
                4.  Preparation of leaders
                     A mentoring relationship can equate to a "mini course in 
                leadership" that provides a realistic training experience for 
                both participants.
                     Cook (1979) observed that many personnel assignments are 
                based on personal relationships established through the mentoring 
                relationship.  A few studies have explored the mentoring dyad in 
                military organizations.  Lewandowski (1985) determined that over 
                60% of students in the Air War College had participated in at 
                least one mentoring experience.  Mentoring was identified as an 
                important factor in the career progression of senior black 
                officers in the United States Army (Mason, 1989).  In a study of 
                Air Force officers preceding their move to an operational 
                assignment, Gouge (1986) described their positive attitudes 
                toward mentoring and their perception of mentors as role models.
                     While the majority of research focuses on male mentor-male 
                protege models (Cook, 1979), there is an upward trend toward 
                female sponsorship (Clawson & Kram, 1984) as women assume 
                significant leadership roles in organizations.  Yet, the paucity 
                of female mentors highlights the need for special consideration 
                and tailored management in cross-gender relationships (Ragins, 
                1989).  A survey of women Army officers reported that women 
                officers were less positive about their career development and 
                disclosed that they had received less mentoring than their male 
                counterparts (Ratchford, 1985).  More recently, Mathews (1988) 
                surveyed 107 O-5 and O-6 Nurse Corps officers who acknowledged a 
                mentor affiliation (67%) whose influence extended to role-
                modeling (100%), career development (95%) and the provision of 
                information (78%).

                MENTORING PROCESS
                     Conceptually, mentoring is often described as a close, 
                developmental relationship between experienced and less 
                experienced individuals (Collins, 1979).  The mentoring 
                relationship typically connotes a mentor-protege or senior-
                subordinate dyad (Kram, 1988) where the mentor oversees the 
                protege's career to facilitate his/her professional development.  
                While the mentoring process is often defined as a long-term, high 
                investment liaison (Keele, Buckner & Bushnell, 1987), it also 
                encompasses four predictable stages (initiation, cultivation, 
                separation and redefinition) of transformation over time (Kram, 
                     Historically, mentors have been predominantly White males 
                (Levinson, 1978) possibly due to their prevalence in senior 
                organizational positions.  As more women have pursued careers, 
                more research has focused on women mentors.  Lean (1983) suggests 
                that some men frequently interact with female mentors but do not 
                always accurately attribute mentoring functions to women 
                managers.  Women, too, may discount their roles as legitimate 
                mentors (Ragins, 1993).  There is still a paucity of research as 
                to whether a male or female mentor is more effective.  In either 
                case, it is clear that mentors of either gender may assume a 
                variety of roles such as teachers, coaches, sponsors, guides, and 
                counselors, among others (George & Kummerow, 1981; Collins, 
                1983).  According to Kram (1985), the effectiveness of the 
                mentoring relationship is enhanced by the inclusion of multiple 
                functions.  Within the reciprocal mentoring relationship, mentors 
                are also perceived as deriving rewards such as promotions, 
                technical support, new ideas, expanded power, pride, and respect 
                from peers and subordinates (Hunt & Michael, 1983).
                     Through these functions, the mentor serves the protege by 
                enhancing his/her visibility, role-modeling successful behaviors, 
                coaching, providing professional feedback and emotional support, 
                among others (Noe, 1988).
                     The needs of the protege as perceived by the mentor may 
                influence the effectiveness of the mentoring relationship (Kram, 
                1992).  It is not uncommon for proteges to seek a mentor with 
                whom they can forge a candid and close relationship based on 
                common interests, values, or simply role identification among 
                other factors (Ragins, 1993).
                     Likewise, mentors may select proteges based on their 
                visibility in work settings, enthusiasm for their job and actual 
                job performance (Noe, 1988).  Obviously, the protege's degree of 
                exposure or nonexposure via key organizational projects may be a 
                factor in cultivating voluntary mentoring relationships. Some of 
                the research discusses barriers based on gender differences.  
                Women in general and particularly those in non-traditional 
                organizations often lack informal access to mentors (Ragins and 
                Cotton, 1991).  The frequent interaction and intimacy in 
                communication commonly associated in mentoring relationships may 
                also deter cross-gender mentoring due to peer pressure and other 
                organizational factors.  Some women may also be excluded from 
                organizational activities that would precipitate a mentoring 
                relationship.  However, Cook (1979) noted in one study that women 
                executives had mentors at a 3:2 ratio compared with their male 
                counterparts which may indicate the changing dynamics of 
                organizational mentoring.
                     A more prominent issue is the element of sexual innuendo 
                frequently ascribed to a cross-gender relationship.  In an early 
                study, Collins (1983) suggested that as high as 20 percent of the 
                proteges disclosed that they had sexual contact with their 
                mentors.  Yet, aside from the perceived risks, cross-gender 
                mentoring seems to be a growing phenomenon as recent research 
                illuminates strategies for successful cross-gender mentoring.  
                Some mentors have stated that since "good mentees reflect well on 
                them, their chances of getting good mentees is halved without 
                women" (Horn, 1982).
                     The presence of senior women in male-dominated professions  
                does not guarantee that they will facilitate the acculturation of 
                junior women.  In some cases, limited participation by senior 
                women may signify their overcommitment to other organizational 
                functions due to their minority representation (Ragins and 
                Cotton, 1993).  At other times, senior women have been known to 
                exhibit a "queenbee syndrome" where they forego a mentor role 
                since they did not have the advantage of one during their career 
                development (Scott, 1989).  More research is needed to determine 
                to what extent gender differences among mentors impact mentees.
                     The present study was designed to examine the incidence of 
                mentoring within the military, mentor and mentee characteristics, 
                and significant differences with the mentoring relationship based 
                on gender differences.  A survey was developed in lieu of an 
                interview format due to project time constraints.  This study was 
                a means of piloting the survey and refining the tool as a 
                intermediary step to studying a larger sample of military women.
                     The sample consisted of 77 predominantly military enlisted 
                personnel who were students in a 15-week course covering equal 
                opportunity management principles.  Students completed the survey 
                on July 7, 1993.   The majority of students were Army (48 
                percent).  Other students were grouped by Air Force (35 percent) 
                and Navy/Coast Guard/Other (17 percent).  Except for one civilian 
                student, the sample predominantly represented the senior enlisted 
                ranks of the military.  Students in the course are normally 
                screened and handpicked for their assignment based on their 
                promising career potential and projected ability to work in an 
                advisory role to senior military leaders following graduation. 
                Seventy-three percent had participated in a college education 
                ranging from taking some courses to completing a Master's degree.  
                The average time in the service was 13.85 years for men and 11.79 
                years for women.  The mode for permanent change of station orders 
                was five.  The majority of students (50.6 percent) identified 
                their racial/ethnic status as Black (other than Hispanic) 
                followed by 36.3 percent White (other than Hispanic).  The gender 
                composition included 77 percent males and 21 percent females.  
                Two respondents did not disclose their gender.
                     Data were collected using a 51-item survey.  Seventeen of 
                the questions focused on whether or not the respondent had a 
                mentor during his/her military service.  The survey defined a 
                mentor as "a person who takes a personal interest in another 
                person's (or protege's) career by coaching, guiding, sponsoring 
                for special duties, and role-modeling."  Respondents were able to 
                supply answers for up to a maximum of three mentors sequencing 
                their answers beginning with the most important mentor.  A Likert 
                scale was provided for 14 items (e.g. My mentor protected me from 
                organizational pressures; My command/unit has a formal mentoring 
                program; etc.) associated with mentoring relationships in 
                general.  A final page included 20 background items concerning 
                socioeconomic family and military factors.  Data were collected 
                following a  lecture on organizational effectiveness.  Most 
                students required an average of 20 minutes to complete the 
                survey.  Those who did not have mentors were only directed to 
                complete the background sheet. Researchers explained that 
                individual responses would be held  confidential; data would only 
                be reported in the aggregate.
                Mentor Affiliation
                     A majority of students (81 percent) indicated they had a 
                mentor while in the military.  Three respondents were uncertain.
                Mentor Profile
                     Eight-five percent of the cited mentors were male while 15 
                percent were female.  The racial/ethnic identity of the mentors 
                was predominantly (45 percent) Black (other than Hispanic) 
                followed by 45 percent White (other than Hispanic) among 127 
                total mentoring  relationships.  The majority (51 percent) of 
                students indicated that their mentor was their immediate 
                supervisor while 29 percent indicated they had a mentor who was 
                in their chain-of-command and other than their immediate 
                supervisor.  In 90 percent of the cases, mentors were described 
                as having an active duty military status.
                Mentoring Relationship Parameters
                     Once established, the length of the mentoring relationship  
                tended to be either one to two years (22 percent) or over ten 
                years (20 percent). Mentoring relationships with male mentors 
                were more prevalent (88 percent with female proteges; 84 percent 
                with male proteges) although there were more male protege reports 
                of interactions with female mentors during the second most 
                significant mentoring experience.
                Mentor Roles
                     Respondents identified the primary role of their mentors as 
                a teacher--"instructor in specific skills and knowledge necessary 
                for successful job performance" (25 percent) followed by role 
                model--"someone you can emulate" (23 percent).  From 10 possible 
                responses, students indicated that the primary quality of a 
                mentor that fostered a successful relationship was his/her 
                experience (32 percent).
                Protege Roles
                     Respondents cited their performance (31 percent) as the 
                primary quality that encouraged mentors to establish a 
                relationship with them.
                Mentor-Protege Interactions
                     Of 15 possible responses, student proteges identified 
                coaching (16 percent) as the primary benefit they derived from a 
                mentoring  interaction followed by challenging assignments (15 
                percent) and role-modeling (14 percent).  They perceived that 
                their mentors benefitted as well through a feeling of pride (36 
                percent).  In general, 56 percent of all respondents indicated 
                they had encountered no problem with their mentor during the 
                liaison.  Based on the gender of the protege, 83 percent of the 
                students again disclosed that they had no problem with their 
                mentor.  Of 21 objective responses, proteges perceived that the 
                gender of the mentor contributed to more effective communication 
                (17 percent), effective role-modeling (15 percent) and more 
                encouragement (15 percent).
                Mentoring Relationships and the Military
                     The 14 items in the Likert scale format elicited agreement 
                or disagreement with issues ranging from the benefits of a 
                mentoring relationship in the military to the value of a 
                mentoring relationship as women assume more combat roles.
                     There was a high consensus that a mentoring relationship 
                helped the respondent perform his/her job better (98 percent) and 
                was important to promotion success (86 percent).  Mentors were 
                credited with enhancing the proteges' competency and self-worth 
                through counseling and pep talks (93 percent) and protecting them 
                from  organizational pressures (48 percent).
                     At a command/unit level, only 10 percent indicated that 
                there was a formal mentoring program.  However, 29 percent of the 
                respondents indicated that their unit encouraged mentoring 
                relationships.  Sixty percent of respondents agreed that other 
                males at their unit were being mentored compared to other females 
                (29 percent).  Careerwise, 34 percent agreed that mentoring was 
                necessary for success at work.  A majority of respondents (62 
                percent) associated a mentoring relationship with their decision 
                to remain in the military.
                     Thirty percent noted that male mentors were more effective 
                than female mentors while zero respondents agreed that female 
                mentors were more effective than male mentors.  Fifty-four 
                percent, however, took a neutral position toward the 
                effectiveness of female mentors compared with male mentors.
                     Finally, 41 percent agreed that mentoring will be essential 
                as more women engage in combat roles while 53 percent neither 
                agreed or disagreed.
                     The primary purpose of this study was to pilot a survey 
                instrument that could ultimately be used to determine the  
                effectiveness of mentoring with a large sample of military women.  
                Despite the small sample size, the percentage of women 
                participants was higher than the overall percentage of women 
                within the Department of Defense and each of the respective 
                     Affiliation with a mentor was a prevalent experience among 
                the students.  Compared with a few previous military studies, the 
                sample also represented a very high index of mentoring 
                (Lewandowski, 1985; Mathews, 1988) despite the almost exclusively 
                enlisted composition.  
                     The racial/ethnic identity of mentors was highly 
                proportional to the racial/ethnic identity of the student 
                population.  Since the majority of mentors were described as 
                active duty military and Black (other than Hispanic), this 
                information may be valuable for recruiting and retention of 
                minorities within the Department of Defense.  Related findings 
                included the perceptions of mentors as role models and a majority 
                of respondents crediting their mentors with influencing them to 
                remain in the military.  More research is needed to determine the 
                mentoring effect upon retention of women.
                     In this study, males had a higher proportion of mentors  
                than females.  This information was consistent with much of the 
                research which cites the dominance of the male mentor-male 
                protege model in traditional organizations.  For female proteges, 
                the majority of relationships were cross-gender, which is not 
                uncommon in organizations where potential women mentors are still 
                in the minority.  However, a larger sample of women is needed to 
                truly evaluate the effectiveness of cross-gender mentoring for 
                women since this sample was a highly diverse one in terms of 
                service affiliation, rank and occupational skills.
                     As typical of many organizations, the supervisors emerged as 
                the most frequent mentor.  Not surprisingly, their primary role 
                was labelled as teacher.  This is consistent with the classic 
                view of a mentor as a teacher (Zey, 1984).  This supervisor-
                teacher association may have also influenced the primary mentor 
                qualities that contributed to a successful mentoring 
                     More mentees valued their mentors because of their 
                experience. Predictably, the mentor's experience probably 
                enhanced the protege's knowledge and mastery of his/her job which 
                ultimately led to improved job performance and career 
                development.  Not surprisingly, a majority of respondents agreed 
                that a mentoring relationship was important to their improved job 
                performance and ultimately to their promotion success.
                     As a corollary to the supervisor-subordinate dyad, most 
                respondents indicated they experienced no problems with their 
                mentor.  Although there are little empirical data, many studies 
                discuss the major risks associated with mentoring and the 
                termination  of many relationships on a sour note.  Perhaps the 
                high mobility of this sample precluded a more in-depth and 
                intimate association which often develops over time but also has 
                the potential to produce more hazards within the relationship.  
                On the other hand, the timed promotion cycle or "up or out" 
                policies within the military may promote positive mentoring 
                relationships as senior, career officers garner pride when their 
                proteges are promoted.  More research is needed concerning the 
                effect of frequent moves upon military mentoring since this 
                sample was almost equally divided between the high and low 
                spectrum length of mentoring relationships.
                     The longevity of women in the service for this sample was 
                significantly lower than the men.  That factor may have also 
                contributed to the reduced number of opportunities for 
                establishing mentoring relationships and consequently, the 
                aggregate number of mentoring experiences.  A previous study of 
                military women had also concluded that military women had less 
                mentoring than males although the cause was not clearly defined. 
                Yet, a higher percentage of women compared to men believed that 
                mentoring was important for their success at work.  This aspect 
                of mentoring deserves more study to understand how mentoring can 
                enhance job performance for women and why military women have 
                fewer mentoring experiences.  In general, fewer females compared 
                with males agreed that mentoring was important to their promotion 
                success.  Since selection for promotion is frequently enacted by 
                a central board that is external to the local command/unit, it is 
                possible that many females believe that mentoring is independent 
                from the selection process.  It is apparent that there are 
                different perceptions between the men and women in this sample 
                and it would be of value to better understand their rationale.  
                While the majority of respondents aspired for the highest 
                enlisted rating, an objective measure to assess their likelihood 
                of promotion would provide more insight into the tangential 
                effects of mentoring.
                     Respondents indicated that their performance was the chief 
                reason why mentors connected with them.  Not surprisingly, in a 
                transient population such as the military, performance is often 
                emphasized as the key to success just like the private sector.  
                However, opportunities to work on long-term projects or develop 
                social relationships over time may not be as common. This 
                response also seems consistent with the identification of mentors 
                as supervisors.  Who else would be most familiar with one's 
                     A significant number of males agreed that mentoring 
                contributed to their decision to remain in the military.  In view 
                of the teaching and role-model aspects of the mentors cited in 
                this sample, this finding seems consistent with Burke's 
                description of mentoring as a "mini leadership course."  
                Additional research into how this may apply to women may be 
                beneficial for improved assimilation of women in the military.
                     Despite the overall trend of women in this sample to 
                downgrade some of the general benefits of mentoring 
                relationships, the majority of women compared with men agreed 
                that mentoring was essential for women as they expand into combat 
                roles.  This  indicator warrants more research with a larger 
                sample of women and with a view toward the current positions of 
                survey participants.  As women assume more non-traditional roles, 
                they may perceive that mentoring as a means of teaching, 
                coaching, and role-modeling is essential for career success.
                     In conclusion, military mentoring relationships include many 
                of the characteristics and benefits associated with mentoring in 
                the private sector.  In the majority of cases, mentoring was a  
                very positive means of socializing career oriented personnel to 
                organizational norms and leadership positions.  While this sample 
                was small, the positive effects were significant enough to 
                warrant further research as minorities and women enter the 
                military in greater numbers and transition to more non-
                traditional roles. Future research will focus on a larger sample 
                of military women.
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