Moving Up – Role Models, Mentors, and the Patron System

Increasing effort, time, and money are being invested in projects for women. Many are intended to recruit and promote women in traditionally male professions, such as management, science, medicine, dentistry, engineering, and architecture. Much emphasis has been placed on “role models” and “mentors” as prerequisites for women’s success. The authors examine these concepts and suggest (1) that role models are of limited effectiveness in assisting women to gain positions of leadership, authority, or power and (2) that mentors are at one end of a continuum of advisory/support relationships which facilitate access to such positions for the proteges involved. The authors conclude that careful consideration of this continuum will lead to better focused and more effective efforts directed at bringing women into positions of leadership and authority.