This article is published in the March 2020 issue.

Who Do Men and Women Graduate Students Consider to Be Their Mentors?

"A plot of mentor sources reported by men and women graduate students"

Graduate students rely on mentors for a variety of reasons, such as discussing their future, receiving advice, and sharing successes or disappointments, among others. Where are graduate students finding these mentors? CERP summarized the results of the Fall 2018 Data Buddies Survey (DBS) to reveal some common sources of mentors and also performed independent-samples t-tests to reveal whether there are any differences between where men and women graduate students find mentors.

As shown in the plot, men (N = 1,767) and women (N = 1,134) graduate students report similar rates of mentors from academic settings. Over half of men and women consider their advisor to be a mentor, followed next by another professor in their department. Outside of academic settings, however, men and women report different rates of mentors. Women report significantly higher rates of finding mentors outside of academic settings than men do, such as someone with whom they have a personal relationship (e.g. A friend, partner, family member, religious leader, etc.) and someone from a conference mentoring program. Men are significantly more likely than women to report that they do not have a mentor. Finally, women indicated they had mentors from significantly more sources than men reported.

Significant t-tests:

  • Women reported higher rates of mentorship through personal relationships (M = 0.36, SD = 0.44) than men did (M = 0.27, SD = 0.48); t(2272) = -5.32, p < 0.001. Cohen’s d = .22
  • Women reported higher rates of mentorship through connections at conference mentoring programs (M = 0.12, SD = 0.32) than men did (M = 0.07, SD = 0.25); t(1986) = -4.47, p < 0.001. Cohen’s d = 0.17
  • Men reported higher rates of not having a mentor (M = 0.10, SD = 0.30) than women did (M = 0.05, SD = 0.22); t(2869) = 5.59, p < 0.001. Cohen’s d = 0.19
  • Women reported more sources of mentors (M = 2.31, SD = 1.56) than men (M = 2.14, SD = 1.42); t(2250) = -2.95, p < 0.01, Cohen’s d = 0.11

Notes: The survey data represented in this infographic comes from the ten options for the 2018 DBS question “Who do you consider to be a mentor?”. Graduate students were able to select one or more of the following options: A professor within my department (not my advisor); A professor outside of my department; Someone I met at a conference or mentoring program sponsored by an outside organization (or other professional activity); No one; Someone else; My advisor; A graduate student (e.g., graduate teaching/research assistant, graduate student mentor); A coworker, supervisor, or someone else with whom I have a professional relationship; A family member, partner, friend, pastor, or someone else with whom I have a personal relationship; A Director or administrative faculty.

CERP LogoThis analysis is brought to you by the CRA’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CERP). CERP provides social science research and comparative evaluation for the computing community. Subscribe to the CERP newsletter here. You can join Data Buddies here.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers CNS-1246649, DUE-1431112, and/or DUE-1821136. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.