Women leaders may be few and far between in corporate environments, and many female executives are turning to life coaching as a tool to improve their at-work performance and success.

When evaluating the benefits of coaching and mentorship, many women wonder if choosing a male or female coach will have a significant difference in their outcomes.

According to a study conducted in Norway, there is no significant difference in the satisfaction rate of the coaching depending on the gender of the mentor.

What is of interest, however, is the fact that coaching can help to improve the satisfaction level of women leaders, and it can be thus extrapolated, that they may be more likely to continue their career path to main leadership roles.

Benefits of Both Coaching and Counseling in a Formal Mentorship Program

Most mentorship programs are a hybrid of both counseling and coaching. The broadest definitions are typically similar to the following:

  • Coaching – skills relating to specific job tasks and abilities
  • Counseling – emotional and behavioral skills necessary for success and advancement

Many women do not experience a high level of satisfaction with formal mentorship programs for a host of different reasons. While it may be a reflection of common stereotypes to claim that women are more emotionally advanced than men, it is a premise that often holds true. Women may need less counseling and more coaching than men.

Corporations are often set up for male success and it can be challenging for women to successfully navigate the process and achieve a high level of success. Outside factors such as family obligations and the desire for a work-life balance can also have a greater effect on the careers of women than those of men.

It is interesting to note that the study did not determine a significant variance in the success and satisfaction rates of the women depending on the gender of their mentor.

Whether the mentor in the program was male or female did not appear to hold much bearing on the mentee’s view of the program. In fact, the participants who reported the highest satisfaction level were those who received the greatest amount of coaching, rather than counseling.

Insight Into Greater Female Success in Corporate Environments

Large enterprises an corporations often seek ways to increase the number of women in their higher levels of management. The results of this study can help such firms achieve greater success by offering a more effective mentorship program. Whether the mentors or male or female is less important than the skills that are developed in the mentee.

In successful coaching relationships, the advisor is able to offer practical, and usable skills that allow the protegee to develop the necessary tools to ascend the corporate ladder.

Firms that wish to provide a usable framework for success for their female employees will acknowledge the differences between men and women leaders and train accordingly. Women are not always included in training or performance opportunities that allow them the chance to develop the necessary skills to make it to the C-Suite.

Communication is Key

Similar to success in most performance metrics, a strong relationship between stakeholders that includes effective communication is key.

Communication allows the mentee to voice their concern and desires in a safe environment that is conducive to achieving results. When there is a strong level of communication, the relationship can be expected to be much more fruitful.

When the desired outcome of the mentorship program is an increase in specific and measurable skills, the rate of satisfaction is highest. Female mentees find that communication and a mentor who actively listens to their desires and concerns will yield the best results.

While some programs may seek to match mentors with a mentee of the same sex, it may be more useful to align people based on shared values and desired outcomes.

When the mentee feels as though they are receiving actionable advice that will have a demonstrable and positive effect on their performance, their satisfaction level is likely to be high, regardless of the gender of their mentor.

Gender variances in the workplace can be a fascinating area of study, especially when one examines the effect of such differences on performance at the highest leadership levels.

When considering a mentorship program aimed at increasing the number of women in high leadership positions, remember to focus on coaching over counseling.