PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER) WOMEN IN SCIENCE MENTORING PROGRAM

A persistent problem in higher education and academia is the “leaky pipeline”, a term that refers to the disproportionate fraction of qualified women who leave science as they move up the educational and career ladder. Women earn 41 percent of PhDs in STEM fields, but make up just 28 percent of tenure-track faculty. The worldwide loss of women in STEM, specifically from the transition from postdoctoral and junior faculty to senior faculty, has been explained by various reasons including: work/life balance conflicts, a hostile environment from co-workers, gender discrimination, few professional development opportunities, and a lack of role models and mentors. 

Without mentors or role models, women receive limited advice about career and personal development. A mentor does not direct, but rather guides, and becomes a colleague that a mentee can depend on and trust. Mentoring helps address the feelings of isolation and marginalization that women in academic settings often report. In a 2017 study, women in engineering assigned a female mentor experienced more belonging, motivation and confidence, better retention in science, and greater career aspirations than women assigned either a male mentor, or no mentor at all. When more junior level professionals are more motivated and confident and have positive mentors and role models, they are also more likely to successfully win awards for research funding, aiding their movement up the professional career ladder. 

The USAID PEER Program receives applications from across the globe, with the numbers varying regionally by gender. In the 2015 UNESCO Science Report, it was reported that, worldwide, women make up only 28% of people with careers in science, with regional figures ranging from 18.9% (Asia) to 44.3% (Latin America). The PEER Program has received more than 2,500 applications in six years, with fewer women applying from the Sub Saharan Africa region (just 18.4%, 11.7% lower than the UNESCO statistics) and the Arab States region (just 26.7%, 10.1% lower than the UNESCO statistics). Reasons for fewer applicants from these regions may include: lack of experience applying for international research awards, insufficient time due to other work/life responsibilities, lack of confidence, lack of role models that have won international research grants in the past, and/or few mentors to guide them through the process.

While there are likely many interacting factors that prevent postdocs and junior women faculty from advancing their careers in science and applying for international research awards, the PEER Women in Science Mentoring Program has been created to help retain women in science, build self-confidence, and teach early career scientists to write successful international research awards. This new mentoring program, which is inviting applications from now through March 16, 2018, will allow time and space for cohorts of mentees (postdocs and junior faculty) and mentors (senior faculty) to build personal and professional development in topics such as work-life balance, networking, research proposal writing, and publishing research papers. Following the mentoring program, the participating mentees (junior faculty and postdocs) will be eligible to apply for competitively reviewed awards that will provide funds for them to conduct a pilot research project.

Please direct any questions to the PEER team at [email protected].

Timeline: Application Process

 February 11, 2018  Applications Open
 March 16, 2018  Mentor-mentee cohort applications due
 Mid-May 2018  Cohorts selected and notified of their award
 July 10-13, 2018  Coach career development training 
 August 1, 2018  One year mentor-mentee program begins
 April 2019   Research grant funding for mentees - applications open
 Summer 2019  Research grant funding for mentees - applications due
 Fall  2019  Research grant funding for mentees - awardees announced

Eligibility: Mentor-Mentee Cohort Application Submission Instructions

Eligible Countries
Mentors and mentees must be permanent residents or citizens, residing in their home country, from any of the following countries to be eligible.

Sub-Saharan Africa:
Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia 

Arab States:
Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, West Bank/Gaza 

Cohort Structure
Cohorts should be made up of one woman senior faculty mentor and 2-4 women mentees (postdocs and/or junior faculty). Junior faculty would be defined as assistant professors and/or non-tenured faculty members. Mentors must hold PhDs in a STEM field. MDs with a focus on research are qualified to apply. Junior faculty/postdocs and senior faculty cohorts do not have to be from the same scientific field, but cohorts with similar research interests are encouraged. Cohorts must be located at the same or nearby universities in their countries of citizenship/permanent residency, and be able to meet regularly in person. There will not be any travel funds provided to support cohort meetups, and videoconferencing is not encouraged. 

Mentor and mentee cohorts should gather their application materials together and the mentor should submit one application on behalf of the cohort into PEER's online application system. 

 

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