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Mentoring for change

  • Education
  • Mentoring
  • Design
  • Education


The purpose of this paper is two-fold. It is designed to accompany the mentoring program and workshops being offered by Universities Australia Executive Women (UAEW) and is intended as a scholarly resource to inform the practice of mentoring within the Australian Higher Education (HE) sector. The paper is firmly positioned within a gender equality framework and is premised on women’s continuing disadvantage within the higher education sector. While explicitly directed at women only (WO) mentoring programs, it is nonetheless relevant to a broad range of mentoring programs. It will be particularly pertinent to those programs where a sole focus on the mentoring target group (for example women, indigenous students, racial or cultural minority group members) is proving to be inadequate because there is a need for the dominant/majority group culture to change. The paper takes a critical approach to mentoring, believing that mentoring is currently seen as a panacea for a variety of organisational ills. Adopting this critical approach and drawing on the recent research and literature, highlights the ways in which mentoring over-promises and underdelivers. A critical approach to mentoring, by identifying this gap, enables mentoring to be re-framed and re-focused to ensure that mentoring is fit for its intended purpose. It allows for more realistic assessment to be made of the appropriateness of mentoring in different contexts and circumstances, highlights the under-explored capacity of mentoring to be used strategically and to contribute to organisational change, and focuses attention on the many design elements which need to be considered in the implementation of ‘fit for purpose’ mentoring programs. The paper begins by defining mentoring and providing a brief overview of mentoring programs within the Australian HE sector. It then examines some of the key criticisms of mentoring programs, with a particular emphasis on gender and power. Keeping these criticisms in mind the paper offers a framework for differentiating between mentoring approaches, provides case study materials to highlight examples of good and innovative practice, explores program design, identifies useful resources and publications and includes an extensive bibliography for those wishing to explore mentoring in greater depth.

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