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The Importance of Mentoring Programs to Women's Career Advancement in Biotechnology


Daun Robin Anderson Journal of Career Development 2005 32: 60 DOI: 10.1177/0894845305277039 The online version of this article can be found at: http://jcd.sagepub.com/content/32/1/60

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Journal of /Career 10.1177/0894845305277039 Anderson Mentors Development in Biotechnology / September 2005

The Importance of Mentoring Programs to Womens Career Advancement in Biotechnology


Bentley College Babson College

Journal of Career Development Volume 32 Number 1 September 2005 60-73 2005 Curators of the University of Missouri 10.1177/0894845305277039 http://jcd.sagepub.com hosted at http://online.sagepub.com

Daun Robin Anderson

Mentoring programs provide benefits to mentors, protgs, and organizations, but not all organizations have such programs in place. In those that do, womens exclusion from informal networks limits their visibility and, in turn, their chances of acquiring a mentor. This poses a barrier to womens career advancement, as does the absence of female role models at senior executive levels. The biotechnology industry provides a context in which many women have penetrated the glass ceiling and reached the upper echelons of their organizations. The unstructured and dynamic nature of most biotechnology companies, along with the presence of women at the top levels of the organization, make an appropriate context for the implementation of formal mentoring programs to facilitate womens upward mobility. Keywords: mentor; biotechnology; career; women; glass ceiling; network; political behavior

oach, sponsor, teacher, godfather, patron, counselor, adviser, role model, promoter, guide, protector, and confidante: These are some of the terms that describe a mentor. Mentors have appeared in the business literature for the past 30 years, but the concept traces its roots back 3,000 years to Greek mythology. In Homers The Odyssey, Odysseus gave his trusted friend Mentor the responsibility to look after his son Telemachus. What greater expression of faith can we show than to ask someone to care for our child in our absence? It is
Authors Note: Daun Robin Anderson, Bentley College, Waltham, MA, and Babson College, Wellesley, MA; (617) 527-1115; e-mail: daun.anderson@rcn.com.

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safe to assume that Odysseus did not realize that Mentor was actually the goddess Pallas Athena. Unbeknown to himself and to those around him, Odysseuss appointment of Mentor represented a truly groundbreaking event, far ahead of its time: the establishment of the first recorded female mentormale protg dyad. What Odysseus undoubtedly did not realize, however, was the importance of Mentors role during his sons formative years as he journeyed toward manhood. Today, mentors continue to play a key role in many peoples lives, particularly in professional journeys. Definitions of mentors abound and the common thread between them is that a mentoring relationship involves an exchange of benefits between the mentor, the protg, and the organization (Kram, 1985; Young & Perrewe, 2000; Zey, 1984). This article adopts Mullens (1994) definition of mentoring as a relationship between a more (mentor) and less (protg) experienced person in an organization to promote the latters personal and professional development and growth. My purpose is to establish the importance of mentoring programs to womens career advancement in biotechnology. Although women need mentors as much as men do, women do not always have access to the benefits of the mentor-protg relationship (Catalyst, 2003; Wellington, Spence, & Catalyst, 2001). Mentoring programs will contribute to womens continued career advancement in biotechnology by uncovering, nurturing, and developing employees with potential so that they can steer their companies in the right direction. In the competitive and highly energized environment (Dubinskas, 1988, p. 171) of the biotechnology industry, that direction is not always easy to discern.

Women in Industry and Science


Although women make up 47% of the workforce in the United States (Henslin, 2003), they accounted for only 12.5% of top executives in the Fortune 500 in 2000. There are only eight female CEOs in the Fortune 500, and only 3 to 5% of senior managers, defined as vice president and above, are women (Lyness & Thompson, 1997, p. 359). Womens relatively rapid movement into middle management positions is encouraging, but organizations need to hire the most qualified people at whatever level is appropriate and regardless of sex to remain competitive (Morrison, White, Van Velsor, & The Center for Creative Leadership, 1987). As Dominguez (1992) noted, shattering the glass ceiling is no longer a matter of persuasion or legal compulsion, but a matter of competitive economic necessity (p. 391). Morrison et al. (1987) described the glass ceiling as a barrier to women as a group who are kept from advancing higher because they are women (p. 13). Mentors play a

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key role in getting women and other minorities the sponsorship and visibility that they need for career advancement. It is encouraging to note that women make up almost 50% of the professional scientists in biotechnology firms, which is rather surprising in light of the fact that estimates put women at only 12% to 22% of all scientists and engineers combined in the labor force (Mattis & Allyn, 1999). Education figures predict the future importance of women scientists in industry: From 1980 to 1995, women increased from 30.3% to 39.3% of all students earning doctorates in science and engineering, whereas the percentage of men dropped from 69.7% to 60.7% (Mattis & Allyn, 1999). Data from Ambrose, Dunkle, Lazarus, Nair, and Harkus (1997) and the National Research Council (1996) help explain the relatively high number of women who subsequently enter the biotechnology industry. In 1993, at the bachelors level, women represented 47% of biological scientists but only 32% of computer scientists and 30% of physical scientists. At the doctoral level, women accounted for 28% of biological scientists, compared to 15% of computer scientists, 13% of chemists, 11% of geologists, and 6% of physicists in the labor force. By 2000, women represented 45% of Ph.D. recipients in the biological sciences (Juda, 2002).

Factors That Attract Women to the Biotechnology Industry


Biotechnology could be the biggest growth industry of the new century (Krasner, 2003, p. C1). It is a relatively young industry that includes those companies that engage in the research, development, production, and commercialization of products using rDNA, cell fusion, and novel bioprocessing techniques (Eaton, 1999, p. 176). Most analysts trace the emergence of the industry to the 1970s, which saw the development of a number of tools that could produce unlimited supplies of disease-fighting proteins. Despite the fact that Food and Drug Administration approval of a product offers no guarantee of financial success to a company, the biotechnology industry has grown dramatically during the past 30 years, with approximately 1,500 companies in the United States today. The recent terrorist attacks on the United States have highlighted the life-saving role that biotechnology can play in biological warfare. This is clearly an industry whose success is crucial to mankinds very existence. In addition to the potential for growth and medical breakthroughs, Eatons (1999) study of 30 men and women in four publicly traded biopharmaceutical companies in the Northeast uncovered six factors that might explain womens attraction to the biotechnology industry. The first factor is the myriad of diffi-

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culties that make academic settings unfavorable to female scientists, such as low pay, feelings of isolation, and the low likelihood of getting tenure. The second factor relates to the above-mentioned unstable nature of the biotechnology industry, which affects males and females alike and thus levels the playing field for women when it comes to opportunities to succeed. The third factor is the flexibility in scheduling ones working hours and the ability of scientists to cover for one another without worrying about coordinating schedules. The fourth factor is the feeling of achievement and control that comes with scientific discovery because of the autonomous nature of some experiments. The fifth factor is the scale effect that translates into women having greater opportunities for success in an industry in which other women have already reached a critical mass. Finally, the sixth factor is the possibility of gaining management skills and earning promotions because of the project management nature of the work, as Ph.D. scientists in industry often begin their careers by managing one or two B.S.- or M.S.-level scientists.

Barriers to Womens Career Advancement


Given their growing numbers in the workforce and the fact that there were 43% more female top executives in the Fortune 500 in 2000 than there were just 5 years earlier, it is important to understand the barriers that women face in their attempts to penetrate the highest levels of organizations. As Myerson and Fletcher (2000) stated,
its not the glass ceiling thats holding women back; its the whole structure of the organizations in which we work; the foundations, the beams, the walls, the very air. The barriers to advancement are not just above women, they are all around them. (p. 136)

Structural theory builds on Kanters (1977) seminal research on women in corporations. From this perspective, the occupational behavior and status of women and men is determined not so much by the characteristics they bring with them into the workplace, but by the structures they encounter there [which limit women] to low-status jobs (McIlwee & Robinson, 1992, p. 14). Thus, women often have less opportunity to advance and less access to power than men do. Kanter used the term tokens to describe the relatively small number of women who do reach the upper echelons of their organizations, given their high visibility and minority status. Numerous other researchers agree that structural barriers are pervasive and pose challenges to women and minorities that men do not face. For example, womens exclusion from the informal net-

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work of power relations within organizations is a formidable barrier to career advancement (Hennig & Jardim, 1977; Mattis, 2002). Women are not well integrated into the organizations dominant coalition, often referred to as the old boy network (Burke, 2002). Womens reluctance to engage in political behavior is another barrier, and senior female executives are 5 times more likely than male senior executives to cite a lack of understanding of organizational politics. Having less experience in corporate politics puts women at a distinct disadvantage in terms of gaining access to powerful positions (Perrewe & Anthony, 2000). Oakley (2000) referred to all of these barriers as corporate practices that result in men being the beneficiaries of recruitment, retention, and promotion policies.

Mentoring Programs
Almost 3 decades ago, researchers established the importance of mentoring to career advancement. Hennig and Jardim (1977) conducted 25 in-depth interviews with top female executives, each one of whom referred to her [male] boss as her supporter, her encourager, her teacher and her strength in the company (p. 129). The bosses used their respect within the company to help the women gain respect, acceptance, and self-confidence. Similarly, Kanter (1977) noted that if sponsors are important for the success of men in the organization . . . women need even more the signs of such influence and the access to real power provided by sponsors (p. 183). Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson, and McKee (1978) described a mentor as one of the most significant relationships available to a man (p. 253). In the 1980s, Bennis and Nanus (1985) found that most of the 90 top leaders that they interviewed could identify mentors who had helped shape their philosophies and career goals. An understanding of the functions of mentors will shed light on the benefits of and the importance of establishing mentoring programs in biotechnology companies.

Functions of Mentors
In her seminal book on mentors, Kram (1985) described two categories of mentor functions: career development and psychosocial. The primary goal of the former is career advancement within the organizational hierarchy. Psychosocial functions, on the other hand, operate on a more personal level by building confidence, a benefit that can extend beyond the organization. Looking first at career development, examples include sponsorship, exposure and visibility, coaching, protection, and challenging assignments. Sponsorship

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involves a senior person actively promoting a junior person for both lateral and upward moves. Exposure and visibility refer to a senior person giving a junior person responsibilities that bring the latter into contact with people at high levels of the organization. Coaching enhances the junior persons knowledge and understanding of how to navigate effectively in the corporate world (Kram, 1985, p. 28) through the provision of suggestions for ways to realize the junior persons career goals. Protection, as the name suggests, involves the mentor sheltering the protg from risky or difficult situations that could damage the latters reputation. Finally, challenging assignments increase the protgs knowledge and skills. Psychosocial functions enhance a protgs self-confidence but not strictly for the purpose of moving up in the organizational hierarchy. Krams (1985) psychosocial functions are role modeling, acceptance and confirmation, counseling, and friendship. Of the four, she reported that role modeling is the most common. In role modeling, the mentor sets an example by behaving in a manner that gains the protgs respect and makes the protg want to emulate such behavior. Acceptance and confirmation refer to the mutual support, encouragement, liking, and respect between the mentor and protg. The counseling that the mentor provides allows the protg to express personal concerns about developing competence, relating to others while maintaining individuality, and work-life balance. Similar to acceptance and confirmation, friendship grows from mutual liking, and it manifests itself in informal social interactions between mentor and protg. As a bridge between career and psychosocial, Zey (1984) offered teaching, psychological counseling and personal support, organizational intervention, and sponsoring as four general mentoring functions. The mentor teaches the protg skills while providing information, offers support that increases the protgs self-confidence, intervenes when necessary on behalf of the protg, and recommends the protg for promotion and for more responsibility.

Benefits of Mentoring Programs


The emphasis has traditionally been on the benefits that protgs derive from mentoring programs. However, it is clear that a number of benefits extend to mentors and organizations as well. Protgs acquire career guidance, personal support, access to resources and information, and exposure to senior management, as well as an awareness and understanding of organizational politics (Kram, 1985; Zey, 1984). They report greater job satisfaction (Godshalk & Sosik, 2003; Scandura, 1997), and many researchers link mentoring relationships to higher salaries (Chao, 1997; Dreher & Ash, 1990) as well as career mobility and managerial advancement (Catalyst, 1996; Eby,

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Butts, & Lockwood, 2003; Tharenou, 2001). For women in particular, increased self-confidence can be a primary benefit of mentoring. Ninety-one percent of the female executives in Catalysts (1996) study, and 100% of the female executives in studies by Morrison et al. (1987) cited an influential mentor as having helped them advance in their careers. As protgs develop self-confidence, mentors gain a sense of greater selfworth as they provide knowledge and guidance to individuals who will benefit from their experience (Kram, 1985). The protgs success can enhance the mentors reputation, give the mentor information and new perspectives, and reduce the mentors workload. Perhaps Levinson et al. (1978) put it best in their statement that a mentor is making productive use of his own knowledge and skills . . . learning in ways not otherwise possible . . . maintaining his connection with the forces of youthful energy. . . . He needs the recipient of mentoring as much as the recipient needs him (p. 253). Finally, the organization benefits because mentors transfer organizational leadership and culture, and mentoring develops managerial talent by educating and socializing employees (Russell & Adams, 1997). The increased job satisfaction that protgs experience results in greater organizational commitment (Aryee, Chay, & Chew, 1996; Ragins, Cotton, & Miller, 2000), less turnover (Kram, 1985), and higher perceptions of organizational justice (Scandura, 1997), while the personal and professional growth that protgs experience increases organizational effectiveness (Kram). Mentoring results in more communication between different organizational members at different organizational levels, and it facilitates managerial succession planning as protgs gain management skills and an understanding of organizational goals (Zey, 1984).

Importance of Establishing Mentoring Programs in Biotechnology Companies


Despite the many benefits that mentoring programs offer to protgs, mentors, and organizations, executives often give mentoring a low priority (Kotter, 1985), and not everyone who needs a mentor gets one, thus creating the need for formal mentoring programs. The knowledge transmission function of mentoring is crucial in changing, unstable, uncertain, and risky environments (Mullen, 1994), such as the biotechnology industry, where the constant exchange of information can give a company a competitive edge. In this turbulent context, mentoring relationships reduce the inevitable feelings of role ambiguity (McManus & Russell, 1997) while enhancing career advancement and learning (Godshalk & Sosik, 2003), and it would be safe to say that scientists have high learning goals. Unstructured environments make formal

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mentoring programs all the more important, and the youth of most biotechnology companies usually results in a fairly organic structure. If left to chance, the formation of mentoring relationships would likely never occur. The prevalence of scientists in biotechnology makes mentoring programs important because managers often receive more mentoring than professionals (Whitely, Dougherty, & Dreher, 1992). As the biotechnology industry matures, companies will move from research laboratory environments to commercial businesses, and the development of managerial talent will become crucial for success. The challenges that women face in acquiring mentors, as well as the availability of women to serve as role models, support the need to establish mentoring programs in biotechnology companies.

The Challenges That Women Face in Acquiring Mentors


The way that mentoring relationships often develop contributes to their elusiveness for women. Because women occupy more low-level positions in the hierarchy than men do, the former do not have access to people in the dominant coalition, which in turn limits their visibility and likelihood of being noticed by potential mentors. The informal manner in which many mentoring relationships develop makes them less available to women, whose abovementioned exclusion from key networks reduces their chances of interacting with senior executives and being identified as rising stars (Ragins & Cotton, 1999; Russell & Adams, 1997; Zey, 1984). The fact that mentoring relationships often result from a sense of personal identification between mentor and protg (Armstrong, Allinson, & Hayes, 2002; Catalyst, 1996; Eby, McManus, Simon, & Russell, 2000) is another barrier for women, for there is more similarity, at least superficially, between two men than between a man and a woman. People who get sponsored are recognized by a powerful person because theyre very much like him. He sees himself, a younger version, in that person. . . . Who can look at a woman and see themselves? (Kanter, 1977, p. 184).

Female Senior Executives as Role Models


Kanters question underscores the fact that in most organizations, women lack female role models (Mullen, 1994), and this extends to women in science. To provide the mentoring functions that enhance protgs careers, mentors must have power and influence within the organization, and the primary means of acquiring power and influence is gaining membership in the dominant coalition. For this reason, the vast majority of mentors are men, and men can certainly be effective mentors to women. However, it is more difficult for a

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man than it is for a woman to be a role model for a woman. Burke and McKeens (1995) study of female business graduates revealed that women who had female mentors preferred them more strongly than women who had male mentors, and that same-sex mentoring relationships removed concerns about sexual innuendo that often accompany cross-sex mentoring relationships.

Guidelines for Establishing Mentoring Programs in Biotechnology Companies


As noted above, the benefits of mentoring do not guarantee that it will take place, and when it does, it is often of an informal nature that excludes women (Godshalk & Sosik, 2000). Furthermore, many biotechnology companies fail, and employees move from one company to another, which makes lengthy informal mentoring relationships unrealistic. Formal mentoring programs are of much shorter duration, and mentors will be needed to fill the gaps in continuity that will be created by greater movement between organizations (Scandura, 1998, p. 462). These programs also result in protgs getting more challenging assignments, especially in female-female dyads (Ragins, 1999), and if managers perceive mentoring functions to be part of their job, they are more likely to provide those functions (Kram, 1985). Ragins and Cotton (1999) recommended that same-sex mentoring be used in formal mentoring programs when the goal is to give the protg challenging assignments for professional growth. The uncertain and changing nature of the biotechnology industry makes it an ideal venue for challenging assignments that will promote womens career advancement. Mentoring programs should incorporate five key elements: (a) clear goals that have top managements support, (b) careful selection of mentors and protgs, (c) training for mentors and protgs, (d) incentives for mentors, and (e) opportunities to exit the program.

Clear Goals and Top Management Support


The goals of the mentoring program must be clear to all organizational members, specifically regarding the intended outcomes (Tyler, 1998). Top management support is crucial to the success of these programs (Tyler, 1998) because mentoring requires a commitment of time and energy, scarce commodities in the fast-paced biotechnology environment. Decisions must be made in advance regarding the expected outcomes of the program, such as frequency of contact between the mentor and protg, specific skills that the

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protg will acquire, career advancement possibilities for the protg, and the manner in which the relationship will terminate.

Selection of Mentors and Protgs


Careful selection of mentors and protgs will increase the likelihood of success by pairing individuals who share common learning goals and a commitment to devote their time to the relationship (Young & Perrewe, 2000). The structured pairing of individuals must not result in formal mentors feeling less intrinsically motivated and, therefore, less interested in their protgs development (Ragins et al., 2000), making it wise to allow mentors and protgs some input into the pairing process (Scandura, 1998). Godshalk and Sosiks (2003) research with mentor-protg dyads revealed that a common learning goal orientation results in the protgs reporting more career satisfaction and advancement to managerial positions than protgs who share lower levels of learning goal orientation. Given the discovery nature of the industry, biotechnology companies certainly foster learning environments.

Training
Organizations must provide training for both mentors and protgs (Forret, Turban, & Dougherty, 1997; Tyler, 1998). Individuals who are willing to mentor will not be as effective if they do not possess the skills to provide the myriad career and psychosocial functions described herein. Among other things, mentors must learn how to communicate organizational values, how to provide constructive feedback, how to assist protgs in developing career goals, and how to help protgs gain access to the resources that they will need to realize their career goals. Protgs must learn to ask for help, to examine their own strengths and weaknesses, to identify their career goals, and to accept constructive criticism.

Incentives
As mentioned above, formal mentors may not experience the intrinsic rewards that informal mentors enjoy because of the structured nature of formal mentoring programs, and mentoring requires a great deal of time and effort. The reward structure must make it clear that mentoring relationships are valued and will be beneficial to each partner (Young & Perrewe, 2000, p. 183). Numerous researchers agree that the organization must promote a culture that values mentoring (Aryee et al., 1996; Kram, 1985). Rewards for subordinate development result in more attention to coaching and mentoring activities and, finally, in an increase in talented managers for the organization (Kram, 1985,

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p. 161). Managers need tangible reinforcement to take on the role of mentor (Aryee et al., 1996), and there is a positive correlation between organizational rewards for mentoring and the development of mentoring relationships (Kram, 1985).

Opportunities to Exit the Mentoring Program


Finally, there will be mentoring relationships that do not work out, and organizations must allow for participants to exit the relationship and/or the program (Scandura, 1997). Having a procedure in place at the beginning to terminate the relationship will depersonalize such a difficult decision and make it less awkward. Letting mentors and protgs participate in decisions up front about how to exit will reduce frustration and give both parties a feeling of control over the relationship (Forret et al., 1997). The existence of a mentoring steering team can also be a valuable resource for dealing with problems, and specifying the duration of the program in advance can facilitate the termination of an ineffective mentoring relationship.

Conclusion
Organizations must work proactively to eliminate barriers to womens career advancement, and the role of mentoring in career advancement is clear. The aim of mentoring is mastering, a never-ending, ever expansive journey of perpetual growth (Bell, 2002, p. 11), but not everyone enjoys its benefits. Because womens exclusion from informal networks may limit their visibility and, in turn, their chances of finding a mentor, one important benefit of formal mentoring programs may be to affect how actively individuals seek out and cultivate multiple developmental relationships (Higgins & Kram, 2001, p. 281). Having a mentor should be an explicit developmental task in ones early career (Russell & Adams, 1997), and human resource professionals must initiate formal mentoring programs to help employees deal with organizational change (Eby, 1997), which is the norm in biotechnology companies. Female executives in biotechnology companies could become role models who have the power and influence to mentor women. Formal mentoring programs give women a chance to participate in the informal corporate network and to interact with high-level male employees. . . . If mentoring is left on an informal . . . basis, only a small number of employees end up taking part (Catalyst, 1992, p. 47). Through mentoring programs, protgs will experience job satisfaction and career advancement, mentors will enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes from watching their protgs grow personally and

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professionally, and organizations will benefit from increased productivity and organizational commitment.

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Daun Robin Anderson is an adjunct professor of management at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, and at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Her research interests include organizational context and corporate culture, the manner in which top executives make strategic decisions, and the role that mentoring programs can play in facilitating career advancement for women and other minorities.

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