Mentoring as Environmental Stewardship

I had an opportunity in January 2018 to participate on a panel at the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA)/American Economic Association (AEA) meeting on “Best Practices in Mentoring Underrepresented Minority Women in Economics.”

As a follow up to this event, I was invited to submit a piece to the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP) newsletter.

I wrote about Mentoring as Environmental Stewardship.

In this piece I write the following, “Optimally enacted, mentoring is about success of the individual in and with contributions to a particular context.”

I truly believe that this is one of the keys to successful mentoring, that is to support optimal outcomes for the individual and the “place” in which they function/work.

Additionally, I argue the following in this piece:

A link to my full write-up is provided here:

A link to the full newsletter which contains additional pieces on mentoring is here.

As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter at @BerondaM

The “Secret” to Excellent Mentoring…

People frequently want insight into the “secret” to great mentoring.

In response to mentoring presentations or in one-on-one conversations about mentoring, I’m often asked questions that center on whether one move vs. another is “best” for mentoring and its intended outcomes.

My answer to questioners who ask should I do either “a” or “b” in a mentoring relationship is often (frustratingly I’m sure) YES. The reasoning behind this non-committal answer is that it depends on the mentor, person being mentored, the environment or context, or other factors. Certainly, there are many general principles that work well in mentoring; yet, there are few hard and fast rules about specific actions that would always work across the board (or a general secret to success).

The truth is that the “secret” to excellent mentoring is to recognize early and often that there is NO one-size-fits all approach to excelling at mentoring. Thus, the secret is that excellent mentoring is decidedly relational.

A commitment to excellence in mentoring is truly a commitment to getting to know the person that you are mentoring—their strengths, areas of needed growth, personal goals and aspirations, and other critical factors. You need also allow them to get to know you—your mentoring style (fixed vs. flexible), your goals for mentoring, and your expectations (for yourself and them in the process). It is is through cultivating a mutual knowing, and a commitment to doing so on an ongoing basis, that you can truly (and routinely) forge a path towards mentoring success.

If you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter at @BerondaM

Evolving From a Focus on Mentee to Cultivating a Mentoring Ecosystem

Many current “mentoring” programs focus primarily on interventions for those being mentored, i.e. mentees (or sometimes referred to as trainees). All too frequently, these so-called interventions focus on fixing “deficits” in individual mentees so that they can “succeed” in the environment.

What goes under-recognized is that such an approach assumes infallibility of the environment or context, while ignoring the impact of structural deficits and biases of mentors and other powers that be.

Whether focused on engaging undergraduates in research experiences, mentoring graduate students to success, or increasing equity and inclusion for mentees and faculty in STEM–most activities and funds have been laser focused on deficits in individuals. There has been significant hesitation, and at times downright denial, about a need to engage environmental factors that impede growth and advancement of all individuals.

Of late, there has been increasing interest and engagement of the role of mentor preparation and training in mentoring effectiveness, particularly in STEM. A national and highly visible effort has been the NIH-funded National Research Mentoring Network.

To fully support efficacious mentoring and impactful outcomes for individuals from diverse groups, including minoritized and marginalized individuals, we need to evolve and expand our focus to include mentee, mentor, and the entire mentoring ecosystem. It is this latter point that has received much less attention; yet the ecosystem may indeed be one of the most critical factors.

Until we are prepared and ready to activate a focus on the role of the ecosystem and environmental stewardship of the ecosystem by mentors and leaders, we will continue to have incremental success in advancing equity in STEM and the academy.

If you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter at @BerondaM