Efforts to increase the number of women entering STEM subjects mean ever more women attain higher degrees in these areas, but the number who then continue into permanent academic or research posts is still woefully few. Mentoring is often offered to permanent staff, who are seen as a long-term investment, but what about schemes for contract workers? New research suggests the benefits of mentoring schemes greatly outweigh the effort required to set them up, for both mentor and mentee. Indeed, a clear mentoring plan is now required for postdocs by many grant bodies, including the NSF and IRC. So how does this work in practice? One scheme is described in this article from American Scientist:
The postdoctoral experience has become integral to building a career in
science. The number of postdocs in science, engineering, and mathematics
in the United States has grown from fewer than 20,000 in 1980 to upward
of 60,000. At the same time, the number of years a newly minted PhD
seeking a tenure-track job spends in a postdoc has increased—in many
fields to well over three years. The importance of the postdoc phase to a
mathematician’s or scientist’s career has, on the whole, become much
greater. Even though 80 percent of postdocs are at academic
institutions, only one out of five landed a tenure-track job in 2012,
according to a recent poll by Science’s blog Careers.
The unsettling nature of this statistic resonates with my own experience
as a postdoc in mathematics at Duke University. In particular, I
remember facing the exhaustion of a recent PhD-writing adventure coupled
with the stress of an uncertain future.
By: Rachel Levy, Nov-Dec 2014
Read more here.