Mentoring and coaching different genders – what are the differences? If any?

This is an extract from a blog that really caught my attention!

“I realize that I am more inclined to coach women. I have recently become aware that, although I have two sons and a great husband, all of whom I have close and cherished relationships with, I am not in a man’s life or a man’s body or brain. I cannot view the world from their perspective and experience.

Because I have no brothers, a struggling first marriage and am sometimes very surprised by a male perspective on things, when my husband and I were first together, I often “interviewed” my husband about a man’s perspective on things so I could learn. That being said, I notice that most women – including me, are more emotional and more easily connected to spirit or a spiritual perspective. I have a different experience of the world just because I have different cultural biases, a different functioning body, I use makeup, I wear dresses and skirts not just pants, the media sees me differently, etc. I think it’s safe to say there are some gender differences even if they are culturally stimulated.

So I tend to have female clients with some notable exceptions like a single parent father with a child and a female ex- to deal with. I know that I am more drawn to talk about certain things with women – sex, feelings, even business perspectives. I am not saying one is better than the other for a woman. Just different. I often have had some great short-term coaching from my husband and occasionally some other male coaches but most likely I’d never hire a male coach for an on-going experience. I need a women’s coach.”

          Source: Maia Berens, http://youuniversityonline.com/

I must admit to having quite a visceral reaction to the post I have quoted from above. As a woman I could never assume to know what a ‘man’s’ perspective is (if there were such a thing), just as I can’t assume I know any other human’s perspective of life and their place in the world. One of the joys of mentoring and coaching is that I am constantly surprised by my mentees’ and coachees’ viewpoints – but not more by one gender than the other.

I see my coachees and mentees as whole, culturally shaped, human beings who may or may not identify as male, female, transgender, androgynous, or bigender. People vary in their emotional and spiritual engagement during our sessions – with tears, for example. I also work mainly online, so I am unsure whether my my coachees and mentees are wearing makeup and I cannot see the clothes they are wearing. The subjects covered are varied and diverse, and do not appear to be gender specific. My role, I feel, is to respect each person – to listen to them, try my absolute best not to make assumptions, and to let them ‘take me’ where they need to go.

I have no personal preference for male or female coachees and mentees, nor for my own coaches and mentors. I have a preference for a coach or mentor who is non-directive, has a developmental approach, and asks really powerful questions – something I have experienced with males and females.

The research still isn’t available to say whether the human brain is ‘gendered’, and the most reliable evidence we have “suggests that both males and females share the same neural circuitry, but use it differently”  (Stix, 2015, n.p.). Neuroscientists have found “few differences: more neurons or more neuronal spines here and there in one sex or the other, with great variations from one individual to the other but that’s about it” (Stix, 2015, n.p.).

So, I feel, while we are, for certain, shaped by our society and our culture – and how we perceive ourselves within a range of contexts impacts how we live our lives – when it comes to coaching and mentoring an attempt to make generalisations based on gender are not helpful. In fact, in some cases, they can reinforce damaging stereotypes.

Maybe I’m missing something? What are your thoughts?


Reference: Stix, G. (2015). Is the Brain Gendered? A Q&A with Harvard’s Catherine Dulac. Retrieved from http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/talking-back/is-the-brain-gendereda-q-a-with-harvard-s-catherine-dulac/

Image: Woman thinking. CC ( BY NC ) licensed Flickr image by patriziasoliani: https://flic.kr/p/9cdeng

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About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ (http://www.ethosconsultancynz.com/). I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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