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The Effect of Gender and Race in Mentoring – Does the Race or Gender of the Mediator Affect a Mediation?

Does it matter if the mediator is black, white, or some other race or ethnicity?  Or, does it matter if the mediator is female, or male, or young, or old?  You can find some answers and arguments about these issues quickly using a Google search.  The questions are timely, but the answers are often politicized. Systematic scientific research can provide a methodology to peel away assumptions, biases, and political positions on hot button issues.

As a sociologist of the law, I undertook with colleagues from Georgia State University a study of the effect of mentoring on job satisfaction in the legal profession, and the differential effect of the gender match of mentor and mentee on job satisfaction among lawyers in Georgia.  We published our findings (Sex Roles, Vol 31, Nos 1/2 (1994)) as the Standard of the Professions Committee of the State Bar worked to create the first mandatory mentoring program in the country.  John Marshall asked me to join the committee and with a group of dedicated, bright lawyers, the committee created what is now the State Bar’s Mandatory Mentoring Program.

One finding of the above study on mentoring surprised us:  whether one had a mentor or not proved to be much more important than whether the mentor’s gender matched the mentee’s.  Taking that finding and applying it to mediation leads to the question of whether any match between the mediator and one of the parties, or the lawyers, or the insurance companies, makes a significant difference in the outcome.   This is put a bit broadly:  variables have to be defined and operationalized, statistical measures have to be created, hypotheses articulated, and data collected and analyzed.  That is a long term project.

Accord Mediation, LLC, will begin to review the literature on this issue and publish the results of that study here.  We plan to move to a meta analysis and then either use secondary data, or collect and analyze original data, and test hypotheses.  If you have an interest in this research please contact me.

Mel Mobley