New England Journal of Medicine
ewaters at biomail.ucsd.edu
Thu Feb 17 19:11:07 EST 2000
One important issue that this article and the commentaries on it bring
up is mentoring. Many people think that having senior women role
models is the most important factor in the success of junior women but
having someone, male or female, who will really take the time to mentor
is critical. Often senior women are inundated with students and can not
be effective mentors to all the young women who are looking for advice.
Young women often feel uncomfortable asking senior men out for lunch or
coffee to get career advice for fear that they will be misunderstood.
When I was a Ph.D. student my office mate frequently went out for coffee
with a professor who was a member of the National Academy. There were
a lot of comments on what was going on, when really they were just
My advice to women just starting out is to get a mentor or more than one
very early in your graduate career and do not just rely on senior women,
they are a resource but are often over committed. Find someone who will
introduce you to others at meetings, will read drafts of papers and
grant proposals or just talk about your ideas with you. Do not overlook
the senior men in your department. Often they are very happy to help.
You should ask the senior women in your department who they think would
be a good mentor. Or ask around about which PI has the best success in
placing their students, even if you are not working in his or her lab
they may be willing to help.
Often women get so discouraged that they work so hard and do not get the
recognition that they deserve. A lack of adequate mentoring is one
reason that very hard working women do not get ahead in science. It is
not true that all you have to do is great work and you will be
It would help this group if women who have had successful menoring
relationships shared with the group how young scientist should go about
getting effective mentors.
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