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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2012002193
pages 79-96

I JUST NEED SOMEONE WHO KNOWS THE ROPES: MENTORING AND FEMALE FACULTY IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

Charlotte Chorn Dunham
Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas 79409-1012, USA
Laura Hartin Weathers
Department of Sociology, University of Alabama; Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35203, USA
Karlene Hoo
Department of Chemical Engineering, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas 79409-1012, USA
Caryl Heintz
Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas 794091012, USA

ABSTRACT

Although women are making inroads into academic science and engineering, they are under-represented in all science and engineering disciplines, are less likely to be full professors (J. Burrelli, in InfoBrief: Science Resource Statistics, NSF, Washington, DC 2008), and are more likely to have exposure to negative experiences with a sexist and hostile climate (H. Dryburgh, Gender Soc., vol. 13, pp. 664−682, 1999;. J.G. Robinson and J.S. McIlwee, Sociol. Q., vol. 32, pp. 403−421, 1991). As a result of these inequities many universities have implemented mentoring programs to provide equal career support for women and men in order to improve success in achieving tenure and promotion. The goal of this research is to report findings from a small interview study of female faculty in science and engineering, reporting their perceptions of their mentoring experiences and the role of gender in shaping those perceptions in an effort to gain insights that will help to make mentoring programs more effective. Three distinct types of mentoring emerged, including: (1) global mentoring, which was the most wide-ranging, involved and committed mentoring relationship; (2) formal targeted mentoring, which occurred in the context of a formal program, was aimed specifically toward providing advice and support toward attaining a career goal; and (3) informal targeted mentoring often initiated by the protegee herself. We found that the mentoring relationship is affected by the use of traditional gender ideology that supports the belief that being a woman and an engineer/scientist is not compatible, which has the potential to influence the mentoring relationship by making protegees feel more vulnerable to negative evaluation. Finally, we make a series of concrete recommendations for developers of mentoring programs to make them more supportive for women faculty.


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