Year: 1992

Author: Stalker, Dr. Joyce

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The activity of mentoring has a long history. It originates from Homer's Odyssey, in which Athena, goddess of wisdom, took the image of Mentor, Odysseys' loyal friend and was given the responsibility for guiding Odysseus' son, Telemachus. It was Mentor's task to direct Telemachus in a comprehensive way in each element of his life. In this role, Mentor nurtured and guided the holistic development of Telemachus' skills, and personal and civic abilities. Increasingly, the field of adult education is expressing interest in the mentoring process (Bolton, 1981; Daloz, 1991; Merriam, 1983; Merriam, 1987). It is seen as a unique adult learner/adult teacher connection which has positive implications for the learner and teacher. However, definitive empirical evidence about the activity of mentoring--particularly in academic settings--is lacking. Some research suggests that it is a vague process with no measurable outcomes. Other research lists step by step procedures and argues that it is a "necessary part of successful growth in any walk of life" (Lively, Barnett, Berger, Breer and Holiday, 1992, p. 82). Merriam notes, that the inconsistencies in the literature are due to the "idiosyncratic nature of available studies" (1983, p. 163) and "the lack of a distinct line of research" (1983, p. 168). Before any line of research into mentoring is extended, however, it is essential that the process is conceptualized adequately. Thus, the purpose of this study is to critique the current conceptualization of mentoring from a feminist perspective. In order to do this, this paper first defines the notion of mentoring. It does this by discussing the relationships and outcomes of the mentoring process as presented in the literature. This paper then undertakes a feminist critique of that literature, first from a general point of view and second via a specific study of the nature of women academics' location on the boundaries of academe and the implications of that location for the mentoring process. This paper concludes by proposing a model of mentoring which is informed by the unique nature of women' mentors' location in academe.