Knowledge Center

Optimizing Mentoring Programs for Women of Color

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Over time, the number of racially/ethnically diverse women with mentors has grown. In the late 1990s, only one-third of diverse women reported having a mentor. With growth in the number of formal mentoring programs, more diverse women are being mentored—almost half in 2009.

However, compared to white women colleagues, diverse women are much more likely to have mentors that lack power. This is crucial, given that powerful mentors often act as sponsors by influencing decision-making on key positions and providing coaching for stretching into senior roles and assignments.

Catalyst research has demonstrated that women of color have experiences and perceptions that are unique from both women as a group and men of color as a group—such as facing a greater level of negative stereotyping that may impede career progress. Mentoring programs designed for women as a whole, or minorities as a whole, may not take the uniqueness of diverse women into account.

This tool provides assistance to diversity and inclusion (D&I) professionals who are developing new or refocusing existing mentoring programs on diverse women. The tool includes summaries of unique issues facing women of color that should be acknowledged by program developers at each stage of mentoring program development, such as selecting participants, matching, and developing and supporting relationships. 

The tool also includes:

  • Assessment questions that serve as “action starters” for creating, implementing, or revising your program. 
  • A case study on alternatives to mentoring program development.
  • Practices to serve as examples for your program.
  • A worksheet to integrate your thoughts on a comprehensive mentoring program.