Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

In the news - Postdoc Mentorship Can Launch Careers

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.

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