An examination of the effects of mentoring on social and institutional isolation

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Virginia Tech

This dissertation examines some of the more subjective aspects of individuals' experiences of isolation within the context of racialized and gendered work organizations. This research develops two constructs--institutional and social isolation--and attempts to ascertain the extent to which racial and gender groups experience isolation similarly. Other attitudes, such as intent to turnover, affective commitment, and alienation, are analyzed with respect to feelings of isolation for these groups. Finally, because current thinking has advocated the use of organizational interventions, such as mentoring programs, to ameliorate individuals' feelings of separateness within the organization, the relationship of mentoring to the aforementioned constructs was examined for its usefulness in understanding similarities and differences between these groups.

This research extends previous work by providing support for new conceptualizations of social isolation and isolation. It extends work done by Nkomio and Cox (1990) and others who found that individuals who had achieved some objective measures of success in organizations, still did not feel, subjectively, as if they were a part of the organization. Thus, the use of these isolation constructs will expand our knowledge of organizational processes in examining groups based on gender and race/ethnicity.

The results indicate that isolation docs exist on two dimensions: institutional isolation and social isolation. Asian-Americans have higher levels of institutional isolation, and African-Americans have higher levels of social isolation than any other group. Females experience higher levels of social isolation--but not institutional isolation--than males. There are some differences when race and gender are examined simultaneously in levels of experienced institutional and social isolation. Younger faculty feel more institutionally and socially isolated than older faculty. There is no significant effect of the presence of mentoring on institutional or social isolation; nor is there differential access to mentoring relationships by race. However, females enter mentoring relationships in greater proportions than males. There are also effects from cross-racial mentoring relationships. Finally, there are no significant differences, by race or gender, in the levels of affective organizational commitment or intent to turnover.

race, Gender, faculty, context