Mentoring programme for fast-tracking academic careers of young female academics
IEDC-Bled School of Management, Postgraduate Studies
Gender Studies; Sustainability & Ethics; Cross-Disciplinary
In order to enhance the gender ratio in the medium to long term, the mentoring programme at IEDC seeks to accelerate the academic careers of four women between the ages of 28 and 35. Gender balance among the faculty members would have a beneficial impact on the diversity of views and as such improved quality of research output. Mentees, each supported by their mentor who will compose a development plan with them, will have the opportunity to build on their research and teaching skills, benefit from training sessions and leadership development programs, and have opportunities for networking and participation in high-level research conferences.
Since IEDC identified the integration of gender dimensions and perspectives into research and teaching as one of five priority areas in its GEP for the period 2022-2024, mentors will pay particular attention to supporting this objective through equipping mentees with the academic and practical skills necessary for the implementation of this goal.
The first phase of the pilot mentoring programme will launch in late 2022 and is expected to last until 2024; this initiative’s long-term goal is to establish a long-lasting mechanism and the necessary processes to support the continuous assurance of quality and relevance at IEDC.
The mentorship programme is one of the institution’s responses to the underrepresentation of women in the IEDC core faculty (see IEDC GEP – Table 2; observed period 2017-2019) and an absence of gender-sensitive research and topics in the programmes taught. The results of a 2019 internal survey revealed that the majority of faculty members strongly disagreed that gender and/or sex is particularly relevant to their field, which suggests there might be a lack of knowledge on how gender affects management as a scientific discipline and management in practice.
Through the mentorship programme, the IEDC seeks to improve the mid to long-term representation of women in the faculty, as well as impact the way faculty members relate to gender-sensitive topics and how they incorporate them into their academic work. This will ultimately significantly impact the quality and relevance of research and teaching at the institution.
The mentoring program falls under the broader development of the research infrastructure at IEDC to achieve greater relevance and impact, addressing several aspects.
First, an overview of existing research practices will be provided, with particular attention to gender-insensitive, gender-neutral (which typically means male as the default ), and gender-blind practices. Identified gaps will be strategically addressed through the development of gender-sensitive research practices. To this end, the institution will build its research capacity and capabilities and seek talent outside its usual scope of practice.
The second aspect concerns addressing the gap between research findings and their use in curricula and study programs.
The third aspect concerns the gap between informal research practices and their formal documentation. Current epistemic and ethical standards and criteria will be reviewed with particular attention to gender equality and equity. A code of conduct for researchers will also be developed and adopted.
Fourth, the institution will work to bridge the gap between research and practice by extending scientific knowledge to new areas of research. In this way, new research will add value to society and address broader societal needs. Expanded research areas will also be more relevant to users of scientific knowledge and civil society.
How is Gender integrated in this Research
Throughout the mentoring programme, mentors will acquaint mentees with gender-sensitive research approaches and sensitise mentees to gender-related aspects of their respective research fields. Given the varying levels of experience mentees have with gender-related issues and conducting academic research through the prism of gender and/or sex, the mentors will also act as facilitators for peer learning.
The extent to which gender-related topics will feature in the mentees’ research work is to be determined pending the first research workshop in October 2022 and will vary depending on each mentee’s research field. Some mentees have expressed interest in research topics directly addressing the matter of gender in academia and business. In contrast, others’ prospective research fields are likely to touch upon gender aspects tangentially (such as through (social) sustainability and ethics).
Another, if more indirect way in which gender is integrated into the mentoring programme are the institutional implications of mentoring young women, i.e. supporting their professional development and enabling their advancement to academic leadership positions. In the mid to long-term, they are therefore expected to be in a position where they have the capacity to, among other things, impact research practices and processes at IEDC and the way gender-sensitive topics are featured in curricula and course design.
What could be done differently
The mentoring programme is by no means a stand-alone response to the challenge of better integrating gender dimensions into research and curricula. Rather, it should be regarded as groundwork for further steps to address the lack of gender dimensions in the programmes.
While mentees benefitting from this programme are expected to be highly sensitised to the topic of gender in academia and equipped with advanced knowledge on how to integrate these into existing curricula, there needs to be an understanding among leadership and other involved actors that the mentoring programme is only one of many steps for introducing the desired changes to the institution. Since curriculum design is not heavily regulated and lecturers have considerable autonomy in this area, a more structural and comprehensive approach is needed.
Therefore, a critical task is to introduce awareness-raising activities and training events to sensitise all faculty members and to incentivise and facilitate the integration of gender dimensions into existing programmes and research initiatives. The institution can do so by paying close attention to coordination efforts and cooperation processes among the respective lecturers of a particular programme, as well as through “nudging” lecturers top-down, that is encouraging them to integrate gender dimensions into their courses and referring them to useful resources as well as colleagues who are more experienced in the matter.
To ensure the above goals, it is essential to establish a system which enables and empowers faculty members to easily transition between their research activities and programme/curriculum design.
Key Learning Points
The IEDC mentoring programme is an essential step for bridging salient gender-related gaps in faculty representation and research activities. It is, however, a long-term measure that needs to be supplemented by structural measures through which all faculty is engaged for more wide-ranging changes in course design and research processes.
Resources to explore