Academic women faculty: Are they finding the mentoring they need?
Journal of Women's Health, November 21, 2012

Although women comprise an increasing proportion of US medical school faculty, they are underrepresented at higher ranks. Lack of effective mentoring may contribute to this disparity. The authors examined the role of academic rank, research focus, parenting, and part-time work on mentoring importance, needs, and gaps.

In 2009, women faculty members of Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine were invited by e-mail to participate in a 28-item structured questionnaire. Descriptive statistics and adjusted logistic regressions were used to identify relevant themes.

Of the 1179 women faculty who responded, 54% had a mentor, and 72% without a mentor desired mentoring. The most important mentor characteristic identified was availability. Respondents endorsed most mentoring areas as important (range 51%-99%); 52% of respondents identified mentoring gaps (area important and unmet) in developing and achieving career goals and negotiation skills. Interest in mentorship for skills needed for advancement (research and lecturing skills and getting national recognition) was significantly associated with lower rank. Assistant professors were most likely to identify mentoring related to writing and publishing articles, whereas associate professors identified program development/strategic planning as important. Faculty who are parents identified gaps in finding collaborators and balancing work and family life.

This survey identified a desire for both comprehensive and targeted mentoring to address gaps that varied by faculty rank, research focus, parenting, and work time status. Strategies to enhance mentoring should address career stages and include a structured framework for assessing mentoring gaps.