Study Finds Peer-Based Mentoring Model Increases Women Faculty’s Sense of Empowerment

A new study led by researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando has found that switching from a traditional hierarchical mentoring model to a peer-oriented model could increase women faculty’s sense of empowerment in academia and help develop more holistic definitions of success.

Traditional mentoring methods typically involve a mentor with greater experience imparting knowledge on a younger, less experienced mentee. This model can be exclusive, as studies have found that senior faculty typically choose who they see as younger versions of themselves as their mentees, excluding women and faculty of color in white male-dominated fields. Perceived departmental support by women at higher-education institutions plays a crucial role in their decision to stay or leave, ultimately affecting retention rates of women faculty.

For the study, a diverse sample of women faculty members participated in a mentoring model developed by the research team that aimed to foster reciprocity, networking and support systems, and directly address retention issues. The model consisted of a combination of monthly large-group sessions on common topics and self-guided small-group sessions with a focus on peer-to-peer relationships. This method encouraged an environment of sharing, encouraging equal contributions from all participants, and promoting a sense of mutual support.

In the team’s evaluation of the model’s effectiveness, the researchers found that the participating women expressed that the support they received through the mentoring community was based on their increased awareness of the resources available to them, as well as a newfound sense of empowerment in realizing their career-life goals.

“This research is critical in opening up and questioning what success means for individuals as this helps not only to better understand how success is related to personal identities, but also how we can create support systems that help people overcome perceived obstacles and achieve their definitions of success,” said lead author Amanda Koontz Anthony.

Dr. Anthony is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Central Florida. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, where she majored in sociology. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. both in sociology from Florida State University.

The full study, “Positively Supporting Women Faculty in the Academy Through a Novel Mentoring Community Model,” was published in the Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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