Women Prefer Other Women as Mentors—Sometimes
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Women Prefer Other Women as Mentors—Sometimes

A new study suggests that under certain conditions, the preference no longer holds

By LISA WARD
Mon, Sep 26, 2022 8:30amGrey Clock 3 min

A lot of mentorship programs pair women students and mentors. But do women always prefer female mentors?

A recent study suggests that female students do show a preference for female mentors in situations where they lack information about the mentors. But when there is more information—for instance, about the mentor’s affability, likelihood to give personalised advice or awareness of job opportunities—the preference no longer holds.

“It seems that women often use gender as a proxy for personality traits, like friendliness,” says Melanie Wasserman, an assistant professor of economics at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and co-author of the study.

In the first part of the paper, the authors conducted an observational study that looked at a mentorship website connecting students and alumni from the same college or university. The authors looked at 6,325 conversations between students and alumni, and found that female students were more willing than male students by 20 percentage points to contact female mentors, regardless of majors and occupations.

Valued traits

To better understand these results, the authors conducted a second study to identify mentor traits that students valued most highly. And while they continued to focus on female students’ mentor preferences, the authors also looked at preferences of students who were the first in their family to attend college.

In this experiment the researchers divided 834 UCLA students into two equal groups. The first group was shown 30 pairs of hypothetical mentors and asked which one they preferred. Students were told each mentor’s occupation, whether they had 30 or 60 minutes available, whether they, too, had been first-generation college students, when the mentor graduated (as a proxy for age) and a made-up first name that unambiguously conveyed gender. The students, who were asked to identify their preferred occupation, were only shown mentors with occupations relevant to their interest.

For this first group, female students were 19% more likely to choose a female mentor than a male mentor when all the other characteristics were the same. When the mentors had different traits, such as a different focus professionally, female students were willing to give up a mentor with their preferred occupation 28% of the time to get a female mentor.

By contrast, male students’ preference for male mentors was only marginally statistically significant when all other characteristics were the same. When mentor characteristics differed, male students were only willing to give up a mentor with their preferred occupation 5% of the time to get a male mentor.

More information

The second group of students received all of the same information about the 30 pairs of mentors, with one additional detail: star ratings from past mentees. The ratings reflected each mentor’s knowledge about job opportunities, affability and likelihood to give personalized advice. When this additional information was given, neither female nor male students were willing to sacrifice a mentor with their preferred occupation for a female or male mentor.

“When women knew that they were likely to get along with the mentor, gender mattered a lot less,” says Yana Gallen, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago and co-author.

The findings related to first-generation were significant as well. First-generation students still wanted first-generation mentors even when they received additional information about the mentor.

“This suggests first-generation mentors may provide some unique perspectives that students value,” says Dr. Gallen. For instance, first-generation mentors might have insight into how to look for a professional position while holding down a full-time job and being a full-time student—“considerations that people with less financial constraints may not even think about,” she says.

The authors both say the study’s results could be used to improve mentorship programs.

“It can better help people who run these programs decide how to best allocate the resources they have,” Dr. Wasserman says.



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The Lifespan of Large Appliances Is Shrinking

Appliance technicians blame a push toward computerisation and an increase in the quantity of components inside a machine

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Thu, Feb 22, 2024 4 min

Our refrigerators, washing machines and ovens can do more than ever, from producing symmetrical ice cubes to remotely preheating on your commute home. The downside to all these snazzy features is that the appliances are more prone to breaking.

Appliance technicians and others in the industry say there has been an increase in items in need of repair. Yelp users, for example, requested 58% more quotes from thousands of appliance repair businesses last month than they did in January 2022.

Those in the industry blame a push toward computerisation, an increase in the quantity of individual components and flimsier materials for undercutting reliability. They say even higher-end items aren’t as durable.

American households spent 43% more on home appliances in 2023 than they did in 2013, rising from an inflation-adjusted average of $390 to $558, according to Euromonitor International. Prices for the category declined 12% from the beginning of 2013 through the end of 2023, according to the Labor Department.

One reason for the discrepancy between spending and prices is a higher rate of replacement, say consumers, repair technicians and others. That’s left some people wishing they had held on to their clunky ’90s-era appliances and others bargaining with repair workers over intractable ice makers and dryers that run cold.

“We’re making things more complicated, they’re harder to fix and more expensive to fix,” says Aaron Gianni, the founder of do-it-yourself home-repair app Plunjr.

Horror stories

Sharon J. Swan spent nearly $7,000 on a Bosch gas range and smart refrigerator. She thought the appliances would last at least through whenever she decided to sell her Alexandria, Va., home and impress would-be buyers.

That was before the oven caught fire the first time she tried the broiler, leading to a 911 call and hasty return. The ice-maker in the refrigerator, meanwhile, is now broken for the third time in under two years. Bosch covered the first two fridge fixes, but she says she’s on her own for the latest repair, totalling $250, plus parts.

“I feel like I wasted my money,” says the 65-year-old consultant for trade associations.

A Bosch spokeswoman said in an emailed statement that the company has been responsive to Swan’s concerns and will continue to work with her to resolve ongoing issues. “Bosch appliances are designed and manufactured to meet the highest quality standards, and they are built to last,” she said.

Kevin and Kellene Dinino wish they had held on to their white dishwasher from the ’90s that was still working great.

The sleeker $800 GE stainless steel interior dishwasher they purchased sprang a hidden leak within three years, causing more than $35,000 worth of damage to their San Diego kitchen.

Home insurance covered the claim, which included replacing the hardwood down to the subfloor and all their bottom cabinetry, but kicked the Dininos off their policy. The family also went without access to their kitchen for months.

“This was a $60 pump that was broken. What the hell happened?” says Kevin, 45, who runs a financial public-relations firm.

A GE Appliances spokeswoman said the company takes appliance issues seriously and works quickly to resolve them with consumers.

Increased complexity

Peel back the plastic on a modern refrigerator or washing machine and you’ll see a smattering of sensors and switches that its 10-year-old counterpart lacks. These extra components help ensure the appliance is using only the energy and water it needs for the job at hand, technicians say. With more parts, however, more tends to go wrong more quickly, they say.

Mansoor Soomro, a professor at Teesside University, a technical college in Middlesbrough, England, says home appliances are breaking down more often. He says that manufacturers used to rely mostly on straightforward mechanical parts (think an on/off switch that triggers a single lever). In the past decade or so, they’ve transitioned to relying more on sophisticated electrical and computerised parts (say, a touch screen that displays a dozen different sensor-controlled wash options).

When a complicated machine fails, technicians say they have a much harder time figuring out what went wrong. Even if the technician does diagnose the problem, consumers are often left with repairs that exceed half the cost of replacement, rendering the machine totalled.

“In the majority of cases, I would say buying a new one makes more economic sense than repairing it,” says Soomro, who spent seven years working at Siemens , including in the home-appliances division.

These machines are also now more likely to be made with plastic and aluminium rather than steel, Soomro says. High-efficiency motors and compressors, too, are likely to be lighter-duty, since they’re tasked with drawing less energy .

A spokeswoman for the Association for Home Appliance Manufacturers says the industry has “enhanced the safety, energy efficiency, capacity and performance of appliances while adding features and maintaining affordability and durability for purchasers.” She says data last updated in 2019 shows that the average life of an appliance has “not substantially shifted over the past two decades.”

When simpler is better

Kathryn Ryan and Kevin Sullivan needed a new sensor to fix their recently purchased $1,566 GE Unitized Spacemaker washer-dryer. GE wasn’t able to fix the sensor for months, so the couple paid a local technician $300 to get the machine working.

The repairman also offered them a suggestion: Avoid the sensor option and stick to timed dries.

“You should be able to use whatever function you please on a brand new appliance, ideally,” says Sullivan, a 32-year-old musician in Burbank, Calif.

More features might seem glamorous, Frontdoor virtual appliance tech Jim Zaccone says, but fewer is usually better.

“Consumers are wising up to the failures that are happening and going, ‘Do I really need my oven to preheat while I’m at the grocery store?’” jokes Zaccone, who has been in the appliance-repair business for 21 years.

He just replaced his own dishwasher and says he bought one with “the least bells and whistles.” He also opted for a mass-market brand with cheap and readily available parts. Most surprisingly, he chose a bottom-of-the-line model.

“Spending a lot of money on something doesn’t guarantee you more reliability,” says Zaccone.

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