Mentoring in Science

Historical Mentoring: An Individual Support

Historically, the term ‘mentor’ is derived from greek mythology. From time to time, the goddess Athena would take the form of Mentor in order to look out for Odysseus’s son Telemachos and provide him with advice. In academia and science, these individual mentoring relationships look back on a long and successful tradition of supporting young, predominantly male scientists.

Modern Mentoring: Human Resources Development and Structural Change

Today, the traditional idea of mentoring in academic activities is realised in the shape of carefully structured mentoring programmes. As such, coordinated mentoring offers are part of human resources development.

program photo 1In addition, beyond the individual support of female scientists, mentoring programmes, facilitating the career development of female researchers, are particularly important in revealing structural disadvantages and contributing to a structural change leading to gender equality.

Since the 1990s, mentoring programmes have complemented equal opportunity policies at German universities. The individual mentoring relationship follows a fixed set of rules and is supplemented by workshops and various other opportunities for further education and networking. As a result, mentoring programmes are well-proven tools in the planning and advancement of scientific careers as well as in the preparation for executive functions. As an instrument  of a gender-equitable development in human resources, these programmes are mainly construed for female scientists in short-term employment. Consequently, they contribute to the effort to reverse the declining percentage of female researchers in higher positions and prepare excellent junior staff members for the next steps in their scientific careers.

As the Forum Mentoring e.V. (among others) emphasized in a statement released in May 2014, universities would profit from the long-term implementation of mentoring programmes designated to women in the sciences and would thus back a favorable development in human resources.


Forum Mentoring (2014): Mentoring‐Maßnahmen in der Wissenschaft dauerhaft implementieren, Empfehlung des Forum Mentoring e.V. (online).

Höppel, Dagmar, Hendrik Andersen, Patricia Kielbus (2017): Gendertransformationspotenzial
von Mentoring: Ansätze zur Organisations- entwicklung und Kulturveränderung, in: R. Petersen et al. (Hrsg.), Praxishandbuch Mentoring in der Wissenschaft, Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden, S. 445-455.

de Vries, Jennifer (2011): Mentoring for Change, Universities Australia Executive Women & the LH Martin Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Management, Melbourne, Victoria (online).

Contact Us

  • Dr. Julia Schreiner
    Christian-Albrechts-Platz 4
    24118 Kiel
    Room 1407a
    Phone: (+49) 0431/880-1018

    Dr. Ruth Kamm
    Christian-Albrechts-Platz 4
    24118 Kiel
    Room 1410a
    Phone: (+49)0431/880-1833


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    via:mento_international & via:mento are members of the European Network of Mentoring Programmes
    for the Advancement of Equal Opportunities and Cultural and Institutional Change in Academia and Research