Toolkit on Effective Mentoring for Youth
Facing Barriers to Success

Best practices and resources to build, strengthen, evaluate and sustain effective mentoring programs for youth considered at high-risk of under education, unemployment, homelessness, criminalization, and other negative outcomes.


Key Lessons

  • Gender-specific mentor programming should include creating a space that is safe for the needs of youth. Additionally, although young women may prefer relationship-building activities, individual preferences for types of relationships should ultimately define the program direction and activities.3, 4
  • Mentor training should focus on how gender may impact relationships and specific skills for facilitating mentoring from a gendered lens.3, 4

“I think I would want [a mentor of] the same gender because I feel like [she would be] more relatable and they could help you with your issues. And especially some things you wouldn’t really want to go to a guy about. Like if you’re having like relationship issues or like female issues.” (YWCA Youth Consultation)

 Existing Toolkits & Resources

Girls Mentoring Toolkit:


Effective Mentoring for Girls


Standards & Good Practices

(linked to positive outcomes for participants)

Other Pertinent Info

(from other studies & reports)

Program Planning

Choose a set of specific individual and community outcomes that you would like to achieve through your girls programs.4 Refer to Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit to find information about approaches and activities for mentoring programs for girls with special considerations (e.g., girls in rural and remote communities).4

Program Implementation

Considering the space and specific considerations of the girls in your program is important to ensure you are fostering a safe space. Consider these factors:

  • Staff and volunteers are female-identified
  • Space is physically secure
  • Girls feel they can share in a respectful and confidential way
  • Girls can discuss experiences and challenges that are particular to their gender identification
  • Boundaries are established with participants
  • Addressing oppressive language and comments
  • There are considerations for gender equity- e.g., posters representing women
  • Activities are inclusive for people from all different experiences
  • Mentoring relationships should take place for at least a year to allow sufficient time for relationship development
  • Flexibility in program activities can allow for a more girl-centred approach as the girl mentees will have more time to take leadership in determining activities
  • Programs should be aware of the impact of gender on matching and support mentors in managing challenges related to gender in their match3, 4

Employ best practices in the program approach:

  • “Pay explicit attention to gender equity
  • Be asset-based with a positive focus
  • Be participant-directed and/or participant-involved
  • Be interactive and fun
  • Provide a safe, friendly space for girls
  • Be accessible and address any possible barriers to participation
  •  Respect and celebrate the diversity of girls, including all who identify as female” (p. 97)4
Gender-specific mentoring programs can positively influence girls by helping them build skills which encourage them to:

  • Feel more confident
  • Advocate for themselves
  • Build healthy relationships
  • Feel connected to their peers4

Girls group mentoring was found to be more effective when there were smaller groups and thus more time for personal attention.4

Boys are more likely to see their mentoring relationships as significant than girls. This may be due to the fact that girls may already have lots of social support in their lives.1

Mentee Referral, Selection & Training

Recruit girls who will most benefit from the mentoring experience.4

Ensure promotional material for mentee recruitment uses age appropriate language and graphics that reflect girls of all different shapes and sizes.4

Mentor Recruitment, Screening & Selection

Consider the needs of the girls you will be working with and the mentor competencies that will support them.4

Mentor Training

Mentor training should:

  • Explore how gender may impact the relationship and how gender differences/similarities do not necessarily dictate differences similarities in interests;
  • Discuss skills for facilitating groups with girls, so mentors feel prepared to begin mentoring after training is completed; and
  • Provide knowledge about how to create a safe space and strategies for making the program girl-centred.3, 4

Matching Process

Same-gender matching may be helpful for gender socialization and role modeling by adult who is not a parent; this consideration may be particularly salient for boys raised by single mothers. Similarly, mentors who share life experiences with their mentees may be seen as more credible and thus developing relationships with their mentees may be easier.2, 3 There is limited research about whether matches are more effective if they are cross- or same-gender. However, cross-gender matching can reduce the amount of time a young person spends on a waiting list, resulting in getting a mentor more quickly.3

Mentoring Relationship Development

The research indicates that in general girls may prefer relationship building as opposed to boys who may prefer activity-based mentoring, although ultimately individual needs and interests should be prioritized.3, 4 Liang, Bogat, and Duffy noted that while boys may develop mentoring relationships more quickly, girls may benefit more from long-term mentoring (p. 167).3

Some programs that target girls may be end up assuming what girls want and need from mentoring which can make the intervention much less successful.3

Parent/ Caregiver/ Family Involvement

It is recommended to engage parents, so that the outcomes are more positive. However, there are some important considerations:

  •  The mentee’s thoughts about involving their parent/guardian in program activities.
  • Parents/guardian desires more engagement with the program.
  • Safety issues are present and parent involvement could enhance safety.
  • What is the best form of parent engagement.4

Consider inviting important people in the lives of the girls to parent engagement events as some parents may not be able to participate and this can prevent girls from feeling excluded.4



  1. Darling, N., Bogat, G. A., Cavell, T. A., Murphy, S. E., & Sánchez, B. (2006). Gender, ethnicity, and risk: Mentoring and the consideration of individual differences. Journal of Community Psychology, 34(6), 765-779.
  2. MENTOR. (2015). Elements of effective practice for mentoring, 4th ed. Retrieved from content/uploads/2015/09/Final_Elements_Publication_Fourth.pdf
  3. Liang, B., Bogat, G. A., & Duffy, N. (2014). Gender in mentoring relationships. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of Youth Mentoring (pp. 159-175). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
  4. Canadian Women’s Foundation. (2015). Girls group mentoring toolkit. Retrieved from
Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services