Inclusive Mentoring

mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself. A mentor is someone who allows you to know that no matter how dark the night, in the morning joy will come. A mentor is someone who allows you to see the higher part of yourself when sometimes it becomes hidden to your own view.

Oprah Winfrey
How can mentors help?

Research shows that mentoring benefits students in the following ways:

  • Academic performance
  • Productivity and motivation
  • Professional skill development
  • Networking
  • Initial employment
  • Professional confidence
  • Income + promotion
  • Career eminence
  • Satisfaction with academic program
  • Reduced psychological stress, strain + conflict
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Professional identity development
What is identity interference?

Identity interference occurs when cultural meanings and stereotypes assigned to social identities cause those with multiple identities to feel that one identity interferes with the successful performance of another identity” (Dahlberg & Byars-Winston 2019).

Causes identity interference:

Implicit bias

  • Stereotypes that unconsciously affect our understanding, and actions
  • These implicit associations may not align with our declared beliefs
  • We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own in-group, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our in-group

Explicit stereotypes

  • Explicitly held beliefs about a certain group typically used to explain or justify behaviors
  • Typically vary along two dimensions: warmth & competence
  • All stereotypes, including ones that may give a certain group high warmth and high competence attributes cause harm


Everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults

  • Can be intentional or unintentional
  • Based upon marginalized group membership
  • Include microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations
  • Interfere with learning, problem-solving and productivity
  • Affect emotional well-being of targeted group
  • Promote hostile campus climate
  • Perpetuate stereotype threat
  • Create stress-related physical health problems
  • Read more about recognizing + combatting microaggressions here

Stereotype threat

A situational trigger where people are at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their identity group.

  • Increases with the desire to perform well and with the expectation of discrimination
  • When triggered, can increase anxiety, decrease working memory, and lower performance
How can mentors-mentees with different social identities have an effective mentoring relationship?

“What is ultimately important is the mentor’s acknowledgement of the role of students’ social identities in their career development.”

Dahlberg & Byars-Winston 2019

Mentor-mentees with difference identities can have an effective mentorship through deep-level similarities, which…

  • Best predict the amount of support a mentee receives
  • Do not include identity attributes like age, race, etc.
  • Do include attributes like shared values, goals, interests, attitudes, and problem-solving styles
Opportunities for cross-race mentoring
  • Emphasize “individual responding”, i.e., see your mentee as a unique and complex person rather than as a single-identity or stereotype
  • Enhance your own cross-cultural understanding – be especially attentive to any cultural norms that might inhibit a student from accepting and engaging in the mentoring process
  • Discover your mentee’s preferred style for addressing racial difference
  • Establish trust by overtly acknowledging individualized, institutional, and structural racism, as well as power dynamics and other forms of oppression
  • Make your mentee visible (if they want to be), i.e., highlight their work, introduce them to your network, and invite them to shadow you
  • Promote additional mentorship opportunities – mentoring constellations increase benefits and can help meet the mentee’s needs
More mentoring opportunities

LGBTQIA+ Mentees

  • Signal your affirmation of LGBTQIA+ individuals by using inclusive language
  • Respect your mentees level of outness
  • Discuss sexual prejudice and discrimination in school and the workplace
  • Be sensitive to issues of gender socialization and sexual orientation, but don’t assume these factors alone predict a relational style

Female-identifying Mentees

  • Consider using a more relational style of mentoring (best to ask!)
  • Be aware or and discuss common gender stereotypes and how to address them in the workplace
  • Be sensitive to issues of gender socialization and sexual orientation, but don’t assume these factors alone predict a relational style

Disabled* Mentees

  • Advocate on behalf of your mentee, when appropriate (think: universal design & lots of structure!)
  • Have awareness and respect for your mentees abilities
  • E-mentoring can be more effective, depending on the situation (best to ask!)
  • Remember that neurodiverse students can be extremely strong in some skillsets and struggle with others. Each person is an individual

*Are you wondering about our choice of words? Learn more about how to talk about disability here:

ADA National Network. 2022. Guidelines for Writing About People with Disabilities. [Last accessed 29 Mar 2022]

Brown, Lydia X. Z. Before 2012. Glossary of Ableist Language. Available at: [Last accessed 8 Aug 2022]

Cooks-Campbell, A. 2021. Why you shouldn’t use ‘differently-abled’ anymore. [Last accessed 29 Mar 2022]

Rahman, L. n.d. Disability Language Guide. Stanford University, Stanford, CA. [Last accessed 29 Mar 2022]

Rajkumar, S. 2022. How to talk about disability sensitively and avoid ableist tropes. NPR News. [Last accessed 8 Aug 2022]

Wright, E. 2020. “Whatever you do don’t call me differently abled.” [Last accessed 29 Mar 2022]

(Special thanks to an anonymous NSOE graduate student for providing these resources).

Tips for mentoring

Establish trust

  • Give your mentee space to set the agenda (listen!)
  • Clarify roles & expectations
  • Be vulnerable & share past mistakes
  • Be honest and follow-through
  • Acknowledge mentee strengths & accomplishments

Promote open communication

  • Use open non-verbal communication through eye contact, relaxed posture, nodding and facial expressions
  • Practice active listening by giving your mentee your full attention, using verbal cues to show you’re listening, and reflecting back what you hear
  • Encourage feedback by telling mentees that you want their feedback, identifying areas for feedback, scheduling feedback sessions or structures and getting curious about their experience (e.g., “Tell me more about that.”)
  • Provide constructive feedback by setting + sharing an intention, relaxing, clarifying expectations, asking questions and by framing negative feedback in a growth context

Create a supportive environment

  • Use supportive interpersonal skills by expressing interest in your mentee, using a friendly tone, encouraging reflection and discussion, providing opportunities for feedback, and meeting outside of a more formal setting when possible and appropriate
  • Provide resources through academia, professional development and mental health
  • Promote independence by encouraging mentees to establish networks and be persistent, letting mentees learn by experience, and acknowledging mentee contributions
More Mentorship Resources

Beilock, S. L. (2008). Math performance in stressful situations. Current Directions in Psychological Science17(5), 339-343.

Byars-Winston, A., & Dahlberg, M. L. (2019). The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM. Consensus Study Report. National Academies Press. 500 Fifth Street NW, Washington, DC 20001.

Clark, R., Anderson, N. B., Clark, V. R., & Williams, D. R. (1999). Racism as a stressor for African Americans: A biopsychosocial model. American psychologist54(10), 805.

Dovidio, J. F. (2001). On the nature of contemporary prejudice: The third wave. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4), 829–849.

Eby, L.T., et al. (2008). Does mentoring matter? A multidisciplinary meta-analysis comparing mentored and non-mentored individuals. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72(2), 254-267.

Fiske, S.T., Cuddy, A. J., Glick, P., & Xu, J. (2018). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. In Social cognition (pp. 162-214). Routledge.

Heen, S., & Stone, D. (2014). Find the coaching in criticism. Harv Bus Rev92, 108-111.

Johnson, W. B. (2015). On being a mentor: A guide for higher education faculty. Routledge.

Mentor Resource Library. (2022). American Physical Society (APS) National Mentoring Community.

Salvatore, J., & Shelton, J. N. (2007). Cognitive costs of exposure to racial prejudice. Psychological science18(9), 810-815.

Settles, I. H., O’Connor, R. C., & Yap, S. C. Y. (2016). Climate perceptions and identity interference among undergraduate women in STEM: The protective role of gender identity. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 40(4), 488–503.

Solorzano, D., Ceja, M., & Yosso, T. (2000). Critical race theory, racial microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students. Journal of Negro education, 60-73.

Steele, C. M., Spencer, S. J., & Aronson, J. (2002). Contending with group image: The psychology of stereotype and social identity threat. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 34, pp. 379-440). Academic Press.

Sue, D. W. (2003). Overcoming our racism: The journey to liberation. John Wiley & Sons.

Sue, D. W., Lin, A. I., Torino, G. C., Capodilupo, C. M., & Rivera, D. P. (2009). Racial microaggressions and difficult dialogues on race in the classroom. Cultural diversity and ethnic minority psychology15(2), 183.

Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions, marginality, and oppression: An introduction.

Sue, D. W. (2012, November 5). Microaggressions in the Classroom [Video]. YouTube.

Tyner, A. (2019). Unconscious Bias, Implicit Bias, and Microaggressions: What Can We Do about Them? GPSolo Magazine. American Bar Association. Retrieved from