The Importance of Mentoring for College Faculty

December 01, 2011

Each month this year, AAUW is teaming up with Nature Publishing Group, one of the world’s leading science publishers, to put together an online forum on women in science. The AAUW posts highlight findings from our 2010 research report, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, now in its third printing.

We’ve talked about mentoring on AAUW Dialog before, and Cathy Trower of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) project at Harvard University recommends that departments provide mentoring for all faculty to promote a better sense of fit and belonging. Mentoring appears to help address the feelings of isolation and marginalization that women in academic settings often report. Among science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty in a recent  COACHE survey, women rated the importance of formal mentoring significantly higher than men did. Trower told AAUW, “Mentoring is crucial for STEM women because without it, they might not be privy to the good old boys’ club or behind-the-scenes conversations that are crucial to fitting in the department and to getting tenure.”

Interestingly, women rated the importance of informal mentoring even higher than that of formal mentoring. Trower believes that this may be because “informal relationships arise organically and because they are not part of a formal process, they may feel more natural, closer, more trusting, and honest, which may be especially important to women in STEM, who are often in a numerical minority in their departments.”

Have you been part of a successful formal mentoring program or helped create opportunities for informal mentoring to happen?

By:   |   December 01, 2011

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