Witness any heterosexual couple trying to understand each other. Both sexes spend time baffled by the logic’ of the other. The way words are used and expressed is different with both genders. Men and women think differently.
Deborah Tannen is a Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University. She mentions in You just don’t understand’ men and women in conversation, that a seven year old girl and a forty year old woman have more in common than they would have with males of the same ages.
Women have a thicker corpus calosum (the fibres connecting the two sides of the brain) and use both sides of the brain more easily. Perhaps this has evolved because women needed to be able to juggle doing the cooking over an open fire, keeping the baby out of it and watching out for dangers. Men have a more focused attention. They concentrate on the hunt. They move in straight lines in thinking, with logical’ steps. Usually doing two things at once is a trial. This sounds like derogatory comments about men. Not true. Check out how men and women operate. Men and women have evolved different organizations in thinking for different functions in life. The proliferation of books like Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps’ by Allan and Barbara Pease shows that there is considerable confusion and frustration for both sexes.
If the function of a mentor is to help the mentee understand and cope with aspects of life, someone of the same sex will have an approach which is closer to the mentee’s. For these reasons a female mentor will be easier for a girl to relate to. Not only will the communication be easier because the style of thinking is similar, but there are certain aspects of life which have to be experienced to be understood. Physical development and how society treats girls and boys differently are two. Boys will understand masculine events, girls will understand female events. It is possible to have insight into the other but not the experience.
The important consideration is that the person being mentored is helped. This is not a teaching role, nor is it a parental role. Someone the person being mentored can relate to and understand, is essential. There is an assumption here that an individual who is prepared to be a mentor, is someone who approaches life in a balanced fashion and can help the mentee to come to terms with life, learn how to cope, and develop strategies for dealing with what has to be done. They have to be someone safe to be with. Perhaps a girl who has been sexually abused needs help. Being mentored by a man would be very difficult because of the issue of trust.
Mentoring is a complex role because people are complex. Having a female mentor for a girl is reducing the complexity a little.