Maximizing Mentoring in Public Accounting: The Effects of Structure on Outcomes for Male and Female Protégés.

Publication Date

Summer 2017


Many professional service organizations, including public accounting firms, consider mentoring programs to be a critical strategy for developing and supporting professional staff, anticipating benefits of improved performance and greater retention. Although women comprise 44 percent of accounting firm professionals, they comprise only 19 percent of the partner rank (AICPA, 2013). Accounting firms, law firms and other professional organizations that remain male-dominate at the upper levels continue to be particularly interested in maximizing mentoring programs to retain and develop women; however, they have little guidance as to whether mentoring programs for women should differ from those for men. This study examines whether women and men in 21st century public accounting benefit most from similar mentoring relationship structures. We investigate 321 mentoring relationships in a large public accounting firm to determine how structure may influence quality and whether these effects are similar for female and male protégés. We find that relationship structure affects the discrete mentoring functions of career development, role modeling and social support differently for females and males. Although, overall, both female and male protégés benefit most from same-gender mentors and relationships of informal origin, relationship origin is more important to women and gender pairing is more important to men. This study provides significant guidance for public accounting firms and other professional service organizations as to how they should consider structuring and supporting mentoring programs to provide maximum benefits to all professionals.


Journal of Managerial Issues






Accounting and Financial Management


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