Show me the money! An empirical analysis of mentoring outcomes for women in academia

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This paper discusses and comprehensively evaluates a mentoring scheme for junior female academ- ics. The program aimed to address the under-representation of women in senior positions by increasing participation in networks and improving women’s research performance. A multifaceted, longitudinal design, including a control group, was used to evaluate the success of mentoring in terms of the benefits for the women and for the university. The results indicate mentoring was very beneficial, showing that mentees were more likely to stay in the university, received more grant income and higher level of promotion, and had better perceptions of themselves as academics compared with non-mentored female academics. This indicates that not only do women themselves benefit from mentoring but that universities can confidently implement well-designed initiatives, knowing that they will receive a significant return on investment. 

Mentoring was introduced in 1998 to address the issue of gender inequality in senior academic positions in a university context. Mentoring was selected as a strategy to enhance the networking and research performance of women. Despite many mentoring schemes and evaluations reporting positive perceptions of mentoring, very few have conducted rigorous evaluations of the outcomes for participants. Hence, we aimed to provide a comprehensive, evidence-based study of the objective and subjective career outcomes of mentoring for a population of academic women. To achieve this, we utilised a control group consisting of those junior academic women not receiving mentoring, both pre- and post-test measures, and a longitudinal design spanning 7 years.

An analysis of the objective career outcomes revealed that the mentees were more likely to stay at the university than the controls. Given the high costs of recruiting university staff, this is a significant benefit for the university. However, we are unsure of the reasons for controls leaving and, indeed, they may have left to further their careers. Mentees also had a higher rate of promotion; 68% of mentees had been promoted at least once since the commencement of the scheme compared with 43% of the controls. This is in line with previous research, which found a correlation between mentoring and promotion. This finding is also possibly reflected in data produced by DEST regarding the representation of women in senior positions across all Australian universities; our university is ranked third out of 42 universities in the change in representation of academic women in senior levels, with an increase of approximately 15% in the period 1996 to 2003. This high rate of change may, in part, be due to the high rate of promotion to senior levels achieved by the mentees. In summary, the evidence suggests that mentoring, when implemented in a format such as we have used, is an effective means of improving gender equality in academic positions within universities. 

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DOI: 10.1080/07294360701658633
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