Mentoring program to stop leaky pipeline of academia

Chalmers University of Technology

​28 mentees and 28 mentors have just started their journey together in a brand-new mentoring program at Chalmers University of Technology. The purpose is to support female researchers in their personal and professional development, and to create good connections between junior and senior academic women. ​​The mentoring program is an initiative by the two networks WiSE (Women in Science, based at the Department of Electrical Engineering), and WWACQT (Women in WACQT, within the Wallenberg Centre for Quantum Technology). The program is supported by the Gender Initiative for Excellence at Chalmers, Genie.

“Our aim is primarily to promote personal and professional development for female PhD students and postdocs. The mentoring program will provide a framework for discussing challenges and problems in everyday research life, and thus foster an environment to make wiser career choices. Networking is a key component”, says Giulia Ferrini, representing WWACQT in the organizing committee of the mentoring program.
The program was launched at a digital kick-off on 25 September.
Provide guidance through ups and downs
“We have wanted to start a program like this for many years”, says Hana Dobsicek Trefna from WiSE who held the introduction at the meeting. “As a junior in academia you soon realize that you need a role model that can provide new perspectives and guide you through the ups and downs of life. We are very pleased that this pilot finally is becoming a reality.”
Academia is a leaky pipeline in the sense that many female researchers drop off to seek other career opportunities, before reaching senior positions. This is especially true in the technical fields, and that is also one of the reasons why the networks WiSE and WWACQT were founded, in 2011 and 2019 respectively.
“My lesson learned over the years is that support from different persons and constellations means a lot, both at work and in life. Based on this, I especially want to emphasize the importance of what you do in WWACQT, WiSE and Genie, and what a mentoring program can accomplish”, said Lena Gustavsson, professor emerita, in her keynote speech at the kick-off meeting.
Advice for mentees and mentors
Lena Sommarström, study and career guidance counsellor, experienced in organizing student mentor programs at Chalmers, shared her best practices for mentors and mentees.
“As a mentee, you should first ask yourself what you think you need to develop, and then share your thoughts with your mentor. Accepting the role as a mentor is an excellent opportunity for a senior person to further develop communications skills, practice active listening and mirror herself as a role model,” she said.
The participants also got the opportunity to meet for the first time in their new roles and say hello digitally to their match.
“I joined the program because I think it’s valuable to hear tips and experiences from older and wiser colleagues”, says Marina Kudra, a mentee in the program and a doctoral student at Microtechnology and Nanoscience, who has found her match in Silvia Muceli, assistant professor at Electrical Engineering. “The fact that my mentor is a female I consider a big plus. She can help me see which challenges and advantages academia has to offer. I am looking forward to the journey.”
In its first phase the program will run for one year and will then be evaluated. The participants are encouraged to continue their relations as long as the dialogue is rewarding and fruitful.
Text: Yvonne Jonsson

Photo: Susannah Carlsson

/University Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.