The Advance Project

Enhancing the academic careers of women in science, technology, engineering, & mathematics

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  • The goal is not assimilation into existing structures, but change in structures that keep women/underrepresented faculty marginalized.
  • Acknowledge the values of women that have traditionally been undervalued.  For example, women tend to place greater emphasis on interpersonal satisfaction, integration, and collective, team-based approaches to learning and achievement.
  • Acknowledge influences of female socialization without perpetuating negative and potentially harmful stereotypes. For example, women are socialized as caretakers and cooperation is emphasized above personal success. This is in direct contrast to many university atmospheres that emphasize individual competition. Nonetheless, there is often just as much variability within groups as between. Successful mentoring programs must value traditionally undervalued characteristics in our society and appreciate and respect individual differences.
  • Acknowledge both real and perceived lack of power.  This means valuing the subjective experiences of women and more subtle forms of discrimination. For example, although women may or may not have to deal with overt forms of discrimination, several studies have indicated that all women in academia are subject to institutional discrimination inflicted by out-dated maternity leave policies, hiring practices, salary gaps, tenure polices, child care issues, and dual career concerns. University policies will differentially affect male and female faculty (e.g. tenure clock and the decision to have a child).  This must be openly discussed and validated for all women.
  • Give special concern for the complexity that arises when categories such as gender, race, and or sexual orientation intersect. For instance, women faculty of color most likely experience discrimination due to their gender and their race.  Mentoring programs must be adjusted        accordingly to account for these intersections.
  • A psychological climate of trust must be developed between the mentor and mentee and other supportive networks.  This involves active listening and questioning that extends beyond professional achievements and includes interpersonally focused dialogue on issues such as work-family balance.
  • Be aware of research indicating discrimination leading to lower achievement of underrepresented faculty.  Be aware of research suggesting that a major reason for these problems may be a lack of informal interaction and mentoring for these persons.
  • Address the difficulty of women from underrepresented backgrounds in finding an appropriate mentor. This may be due to the overabundance of White and/or male mentors and lack of mentors from a underrepresented background
  • If there are few underrepresented women in a department, this high visibility may deter potential mentors.
  • Research interests of underrepresented women may fall outside the mainstream interests of the department and may be considered risky by senior faculty.
  • Underrepresented faculty may be assigned to fringe departments and/or moved into administrative positions before they have built a substantial research base.
  • Underrepresented women who do hold senior positions may be overburdened with committee responsibilities and/or other mentees, and may not have the necessary time to commit.
  • Encourage networking with other departments as research suggests that underrepresented women tend to benefit greatly from relationships with other underrepresented women who may fill different mentoring needs.

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