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Cross-cultural mentoring: a study on Black mentors and White mentees

Successful mentor-mentee dynamics largely depend on a mutual understanding of each other's backgrounds. How did things turn out for Black female mentors with White female mentees?

Inclusion is of the key pillars upholding our vision to foster collaboration in research. In the recent years, many big and small organisations have been throwing the term Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) around, but how many actually look at inclusion from all levels?

We can see the same issue in topics of research in the West: previous Western research on cross-cultural mentoring have mainly been focused on White research mentors and non-White research mentees. A mentoring relationship is, however, mostly led by the mentor, so as we see a rise in diverse representation among faculty members, it is essential to understand the dynamics between mentors of colour and White mentees - is there a difference in communication? How do they explore unshared cultures?

We want to share a study led by Geleana Alston, a Associate Professor of Adult Education at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, which explored the nature of cross-cultural mentoring relationships between 5 Black female faculty mentors and their White female doctoral student mentees.

This study found that having a shared culture of womanhood and motherhood was beneficial as it helped provide a starting point for the pair to explore unshared cultures, such as racial and cultural backgrounds. An interesting finding was that for the White mentee, the mentorship created an space for learning and self-reflection with regard to racial privilege. Participants mentioned the importance of communication and trust, and highlighted the learning that occurred as the mentors and mentees cultivated their relationships.

This study concluded that “cross-cultural mentoring relationships have the potential to create space of learning about self and others and can result in personal and professional (and possibly institutional) transformation”.

How are we reflecting on this?

From our pilot, we have heard from mentees that they would love to have a mentor who looks like them, as representation can be an extremely important element of being an effective role model. But we have also heard some mentors and mentees express their positive experience with cross-cultural mentoring, as both sides benefited from having better understanding and developing better communication skills with their counterpart.

Although our mentor-mentee pool at CABLE is considerably diverse, and to date we have had member participation from more than 60 nationalities, we don’t want our efforts to stop here - we’re hoping to get representation at every level, for both mentors and mentees.

You can be part of our mission to be the representation you want to see - if you’re interested in becoming a mentor or a mentee in our next cohort (July to September 2022), please reach out today. You will make a difference 😊

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