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NPA ADVANCE Clearinghouse - Mentoring
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About NPA ADVANCE Summit on Gender and the Postdoctorate Presentations and Articles
Data on Postdocs and Gender Clearinghouse on Promising Practices Contact Us

Potential Interventions to Aid in Retaining Postdoc Women

A clearinghouse of promising practices

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1. Establish a committee of mentors for individual postdocs. This committee would lighten the mentoring burden on postdoctoral advisors and female mentors and would provide for a diversity of mentoring needs through the perspectives brought by multiple mentors. Consider assigning committee members to overcome women's difficulties in self-assigning mentors.


  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute offers postdoc mentoring committees within each of its departments
  • Moffitt Cancer Center’s Pathway to Independence program presented an optional special track for postdocs interested in an independent research career. Postdocs meet annually with special training committee that reviews career progress, gives annual seminars and participates in additional training.
  • Other group-based mentoring models:
    • University of Montana ADVANCE established Writing Groups where groups of junior and senior faculty form a mentor-style relationship focused on helping with scientific writing. This model could work well for postdocs to develop their paper and grant writing, either by grouping junior and senior postdocs or perhaps involving a faculty member.
    • The American Economic Association Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession’s CeMENT program offers mentoring workshops for early-career faculty women. In addition to plenary sessions on career development, the workshops include small-group feedback on a participant’s in-progress paper or proposal. A study of participants’ outcomes has shown significant increases in their publication rates and successful grant applications [1]. This could be an effective model for adaptation for postdocs.


2. Establish formal and informal one-on-one mentoring programs.


  • University of California San Francisco Center for AIDS Research mentoring program matches faculty with postdocs for structured, one-on-one mentoring with resources and support for both mentors and mentees and a seminar series on academic advancement topics.

  • University of Maryland Baltimore County Eminent Scholar Program. This ADVANCE initiative links junior women faculty (especially those at a transition point in their careers) with an eminent scholar in their field of study.They are then provided with funding to visit each other’s institutions in order to foster a mentoring relationship between the two. This could be adapted for postdocs, although the integration of these visits with the postdoc’s primary research program would have to be negotiated with the postdoctoral supervisor.

  • University of Washington Faculty and Graduate Student Mentoring Program, which matched students from underrepresented groups with faculty members who apply to be mentors. Although it focuses on graduate students, this could be adapted for postdocs.

  • New Mexico State University’s ADVANCE program has a structured one-on-one mentoring program that matches faculty mentors and mentees and also provides structured events and networking opportunities for the program’s entire cohort.

  • Postdoctoral Office leaders can also offer this service on a case-by-case basis to their postdocs.

    • Medical University of South Carolina Office of Postdoctoral Affairs

    • University of Washington Office of Postdoctoral Affairs

    • University of Alabama Birmingham Office of Postdoctoral Education


3. Expand mentoring network to external mentors (e.g. external to department, or institution)

  • See also: Programs: Networking

  • Kansas State University’s ADVANCE program has established networks for untenured faculty women outside the university. This could be adapted to foster postdoc women’s networks. (see [2] )

  • MentorNet offers online and remote mentoring for those in STEM fields from across the United States, with an emphasis on mentoring of women. 

  • Remote or online mentoring programs can also be effective for connecting postdocs from underrepresented groups with mentors. For example, National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) has a successful online mentoring program, in partnership with MentorNet, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) students, postdocs and early-career faculty. Similarly, the DO-IT program at the University of Washington has been successful in building online mentoring networks for students with disabilities that could be adapted for postdocs.


4.Foster mechanisms for regular feedback and communication with postdoctoral supervisor



5. Provide training to postdocs on how to get the most out of a mentoring relationship


  • Washington University at St Louis program on “Managing Mentoring Relationships.” The workshop covers: the qualities of good mentorship, the roles and responsibilities of both mentors and the mentees, and how to solicit or negotiate the support you request and give.

  • University of Washington offers workshops on how to work with your postdoctoral supervisor.

  • Many institutions include information on mentoring within their responsible conduct of research training, since mentor responsibilities are among the nine-core areas endorsed by the National Institutes of Health and the federal Office of Research Integrity. For example, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia does this.


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[1] Blau, F.D., Currie, J.M., Croson, R.T.A., and Ginther, D.K. 2010. "Can Mentoring Help Female Assistant Professors? Interim Results from a Randomized Trial" Papers and Proceedings of the American Economic Association (May 2010) in press.

[2] Dyer, R.A and Montelone, B.A. 2007. Transforming Science and Engineering: Advancing Academic Women. Eds. A.J. Stewart, J. E. Malley and D. LeVaque-Manty. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0819994. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.