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Executive Summary

Frames are used in the front-end of a paper to situate the study within a larger body of literature. All of the studies use frames regarding the barriers and challenges facing women of color faculty. The most common challenges discussed in framing were isolation, underrepresentation, and discrimination and bias. While these references to underrepresentation framed it as a challenge, some studies also employed underrepresentation in more nuanced and conflicting ways throughout the front-end of their papers.

Others argued that mentoring was needed to overcome underrepresentation; and another also argued that systemic change is needed to improve representation. All the studies presented findings affirming the value of mentoring for women of color faculty. The most common benefits of mentoring were navigational capital and problem-solving or advice. One of the studies also presented evidence that mentoring can lead to systemic change; in the data supporting this claim, one of the study participants described how she raised awareness of issues to folks in senior positions by mentoring up.

The articles presented a range of findings regarding who is the ideal mentor and the characteristics of successful mentoring relationships: receiving mentoring from White faculty members and from others who shared their race, gender or both.

Methods

This study utilizes meta-synthesis to investigate what we currently know from the research literature about the mentoring experiences of women of color faculty in STEM higher education. Meta-synthesis integrates and interprets patterns across qualitative studies that explore the same or closely related topic, with the goal of theory-building. This methodology is an essential tool in researching higher analytic goals, enhancing the generalizability of qualitative research, and creating a more comprehensive understanding of the topic at hand (Finlayson and Dixon 2008; Sandelowski, Docherty, and Emden 1997; Walsh and Downe 2005; Zimmer 2004).

If used as a tool of reduction and aggregation, meta-synthesis risks violating the tenets of the interpretative paradigm (Sandelowski, Docherty, and Emden 1997; Zimmer 2004). Careful attention must be given to the assumptions underlying any differences in methodologies of the individual studies, and contradictory findings across the studies must be explored for theory development (Zimmer 2004).

Selection Process

The first step of a meta-synthesis is the selection of studies and determination of inclusion criteria. At this stage, the comparability of articles must be considered on several factors, such as methodology, sampling, data collection and analysis, and disciplinary background of the researchers (Sandelowski, Docherty, and Emden 1997). The goal is to find all the relevant articles on a specified topic, not merely a sample (Walsh and Downe 2005). While prior meta-synthesis analyses range in size from four to over 100 studies (Finlayson and Dixon 2008), Sandelowski, Docherty, and Emden (1997) suggest to limit meta-synthesis to no more than 10 studies, as larger sample sizes “impede deep analysis and, therefore, threaten the interpretative validity of findings” (p.368). In order to create a dataset of studies that is both small enough for the analysis to preserve the integrity of the individual studies and comprehensive enough to include all of the relevant studies, the scope and inclusion criteria must develop in an iterative manner (Walsh and Downe 2005).

Utilizing Google Scholar, the initial searches included the broadest relevant search criteria: “mentoring ‘women of color’ faculty” and “mentoring minority women faculty”. Then, a series of searches with criteria that included specific racial/ethnic categories (in addition to “mentoring faculty” were run): African American, Alaskan Native, American Indian, Asian, Black, Chicana, Hispanic, indigenous, Latina, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander. A series of searches with criteria with specific disciplinary categories (as defined by the NSF definition of STEM along with medicine) were then run: STEM, science, technology, engineering, math, astronomy, chemistry, computer science, geoscience, life science, physics, psychology, social science, STEM education, and medicine. Further variations with specificity on both racial/ethnic categories and discipline (e.g., “mentoring Black women Chemistry faculty”) were tested, however this approach did not yield any unique results.

A total of 28 unique searches were run and assessed. With the first two sets of broad searches, the first 200 items of each set of results were reviewed; for the more specific searches (which yielded substantially smaller numbers of studies), the first 100 items of results for each search term combination were reviewed. At this stage, only the title and abstract were reviewed to determine potential inclusion in the study (i.e., if the article was relevant to the meta-synthesis project). In addition to running searches through Google Scholar, a citation snowball method was used to identify additional studies. That is, the references cited within the studies that were found by the search procedure were reviewed, as well as articles that references any of the studies found by the search procedure. To assist in comparability, only articles from peer-reviewed journals were included.

The search procedures described above created a list of 33 studies for potential inclusion in the meta-synthesis. The initial inclusion criteria required that an article be: (1) a qualitative study focusing on (2) the faculty mentoring experiences of (3) women of color faculty within (4) STEMM fields broadly or a specific fields(s) within STEMM. Only three studies met all of these criteria. In the second iteration of the inclusion criteria, the third item of the criteria was expanded to include studies focusing on faculty of color and/or women faculty, if they separated out women of color faculty in their analyses. However, this did not add any new articles to the dataset, as none of the articles disaggregated their results by gender (if the focus was on faculty of color) or race (if the focus was on women faculty). In the third iteration of inclusion criteria, the fourth item of criteria was expanded from STEMM to academia, so that the inclusion criteria required an article be: (1) a qualitative study focusing on (1) the faculty mentoring experiences of (2) women of color faculty within (3) academia broadly. Using these criteria, a total of eight studies were selected for inclusion in the meta-synthesis, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Characteristics of the Articles within the Meta-Synthesis Dataset

Author(s) Year Population Disciplinary Scope Article Title
Buzzanell, Long, Anderson, Kokini, and Batra 2015 Women of Color Engineering Mentoring in Academe: A Feminist Post-structural Lens on Stories of Women Engineering Faculty
Crawford and Smith 2005 African American Women Academic Administration The We and the Us: Mentoring African American Women
Daniel 2009 Black Women Psychology Next Generation: A Mentoring Program for Black Female Psychologists
Elliot, Dorscher, Wirta, and Hill 2010 Native American Women Medicine Staying Connected: Native American Women Faculty Members on Experiencing Success
Holmes, Land, and Hinton-Hudson 2007 Black Women Academia Race Still Matters: Considerations for Mentoring Black Women in Academe
Smith and Crawford 2007 African American Women Academic Administration Climbing the Ivory Tower: Recommendations for Mentoring African American Women in Higher Education
Thomas and Hollenshead 2001 Women of Color Academia Resisting from the Margins: The Coping Strategies of Black Women and Other Women of Color Faculty Members at a Research University
Tran 2014 Women of Color Academic Administration The Role of Mentoring in the Success of Women Leaders of Color in Higher

Preliminary Findings

Frames

Frames are used in the front-end of a paper to situate the study within a larger body of literature. All of the studies make use of frames regarding the barriers and challenges facing women of color faculty. The most common challenges discussed in framing were: isolation (n=7), underrepresentation (n=7), and discrimination and bias (n=6). While these references to underrepresentation framed it as a challenge, seven of the studies also employed underrepresentation in more nuanced and conflicting ways throughout the front-end of their papers. Two of the studies argued that mentoring was needed to overcome underrepresentation (Buzzanell, Long, Anderson, Kokini, and Batra 2015; Crawford and Smith 2005); one of these studies also argued that systemic change is needed to improve representation (Crawford and Smith 2005). Two of the studies noted that underrepresentation and the associated marginalization can be sources of power (Daniel 2009) and spaces of resistance (Thomas and Hollenshead 2001), while Train (2014) argued that women of color are causing systemic change by resisting assimilation.

Six of the eight studies also employed frames relating to the importance of mentoring; three of these studies also included qualifications on the value of mentoring. Both articles by Crawford and Smith noted that individuals may succeed without mentors and that mentors do not guarantee success. Buzzanell et al. (2015) went further in qualifying the importance of mentoring, by presenting a critique of the “grand mentoring narrative,” writing:

“The anticipated benefits along with the assumed productive relationships create a grand mentoring narrative suggesting not only that mentoring is required for academic career and life success but also that mentoring processes and practices can be standardized, regardless of individuals’ differential experiences, backgrounds, and needs that might necessitate different mentoring forms and content.” (p.441)

Value of Mentoring

All of the studies presented findings affirming the value of mentoring for women of color faculty. The most common benefits of mentoring were navigational capital (n=6) and problem-solving or advice (n=6). One of the studies also presented evidence that mentoring can lead to systemic change (Tran 2014); in the data supporting this claim, one of the study participants described how she raised awareness of issues to folks in senior positions by mentoring up.

The articles presented a range of findings regarding who is the ideal mentor and the characteristics of successful mentoring relationships. In two of the studies, participants found successful mentoring relationships through working with White faculty members (Holmes, Land, Hinton-Hudson 2007; Tran 2014). One of these studies also presented data that participants were most successful with mentors who shared their race, gender, or both (Holmes, Land, Hinton-Hudson 2007). While five of the studies found that their participants experienced successful peer mentoring relationships, three of these same studies also presented data on the importance of hierarchical one-on-one mentoring relationships.

Four of the studies presented data on the challenges that their participants experienced within mentoring relationships, including contentious relationships with their mentor and a general sense that mentoring is mysterious and not understood. Six of the studies also included participants who did not receive mentoring. In the two studies by Crawford and Smith, none of their participants had a mentoring relationship—however, the authors restricted the definition of mentor to be “one who is further along in an educational career than you are, perhaps in administration, and who counsels you and looks out for your career” (p.60). This definition excludes peer mentors and mentors that may exist outside of academia; indeed, in the data they present, the women spoke to having peer and non-academic mentors, yet the authors conclude that these women received no mentoring.

References

Charmaz, K. (2001). Grounded theory. In R. M. Emerson (Ed.), Contemporary field research: Perspectives and formulations. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Finlayson, K. W., and Dixon, A. (2008). Qualitative meta-synthesis: a guide for the novice. Nurse researcher, 15(2).

Sandelowski, M., Docherty, S., and Emden, C. (1997). Qualitative metasynthesis: Issues and techniques. Research in nursing and health, 20(4), 365-371.

Tavory, I., and Timmermans, S. (2014). Abductive analysis: Theorizing qualitative research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Walsh, D., and Downe, S. (2005). Meta‐synthesis method for qualitative research: a literature review. Journal of advanced nursing, 50(2), 204-211.

Zimmer, L. (2006). Qualitative meta‐synthesis: a question of dialoguing with texts. Journal of advanced nursing, 53(3), 311-318

Appendix

Codebook: Meta-synthesis of the Mentoring Experiences of Women of Color Faculty                                                    

High-level characteristics                                                        

              Abstracts                                          

              Keywords                                        

                             Academic administration                          

                             African American                          

                             African American women                          

                             Black women                  

                             Career                

                             Dignity                

                             Engineering                      

                             Gender              

                             Higher Education                          

                             Meaningful work                          

                             Mentoring                        

                             Minority career development                    

                             Narrative                          

                             No key words given                      

                             Post-structural                

                             Professional development                          

                             Race                    

                             Research careers                            

                             STEM                  

                             Women leaders of color              

              Citations of other papers included in this study                                

              Discipline of authors                                    

                             First author                      

                                            Communication              

                                            Education          

                                            Medicine            

                                            Psychology        

                                            Sociology            

                             Other authors                  

                                            Communication              

                                            Computer Information Systems

                                            Education          

                                            Mechanical Engineering

                                            Medicine            

                                            Sociology            

                                            unknown            

              Key finding                                      

                             Disrupt grand narrative, mentoring is raced, classed, gendered, etc.                          

                             Lack of mentors for African American women in administration                

                             Mentor makes professional success possible                        

                             Women of color resisting in order to succeed                    

              Main purpose                                

              Methods                                          

                             Description of intervention                        

                             Description of themes                  

                             Description of subjects                

                             Emergent coding                            

                             Feminist post-structural narratological stance                    

                             Interviews                        

                             Phenomenology                            

                             Program evaluation                      

                             Secondary analysis of survey and interview data                

              Setting                                

                             4-year predominantly White institutions              

                             Large state university in Great Lakes area                            

                             National                            

                             New York State colleges and universities                              

              Theoretical Frameworks                                            

                             Black feminist thought                  

                             Post-structural feminism                            

Defining Mentoring                                                    

              Given definition                                            

              Mention of peer mentoring, multiple mentors                                  

              Purpose of mentoring                                  

                             Build mentees network                

                             Increase women in STEM                          

                             Instrumental support                    

                             Psychosocial, emotional support              

Frames                                            

              Barriers                            

                             Academic values do not align with cultural values                            

                             Barriers to professional socialization                      

                             Discrimination and bias              

                             Enviro of cultural homogeneity                

                             Expected to represent all women of their race                    

                             Focus on finding right job rather than succeeding at job they have                            

                             High service commitments                        

                             Hostile environment, climate                    

                             Intersectional                  

                             Isolation                            

                             Lack access to resources              

                             Lack mentors                  

                             Lack networks                  

                             Lack of role models                      

                             Lack of sensitivity                          

                             Lack of trust                    

                             Lack of visibility                            

                             Limited opportunities for advancement                

                             Low status                        

                             Marginal position                          

                             Pressure                            

                             Stereotype threat                            

                             Unclear P and T requirements                  

                             Underrepresentation                    

                             Undeserved scrutiny                    

                             Women of color choices and career paths                            

                             Women of color viewed as threat                            

              Career development research, career paths                                        

              Different cultural definitions of success                                

              Discipline of authors specific framing                                  

                             Mentoring as constituted communicatively                        

                             Racial history of Psychology                      

              Importance, value of mentoring, research on mentoring                                

                             Benefits to mentee of mentoring              

                                            Lit on benefits of mentors to all women  

                                            Lit on benefits of mentors to people of color, including men        

                             Challenges to success of mentor relationships                    

                             Characteristics, timing influence mentoring impact                        

                             Cross race mentoring                    

                             Mentoring and women of color                

                             Mentoring can shift overall paradigm                    

                             Mentoring improves institutional diversity                          

                             Mentoring is reciprocal                

                             Peer and multiple mentors                        

                             Qualifies or limits the view of mentoring as always positive                          

                             Race matters                    

                             Racial differences w Whites                        

              Systemic change needed                            

              Underrepresentation                                    

                             Causes                

                             Lack of research on women of color                      

                             Margins as source of power, resistance                  

                             Mentoring as one intervention designed to address this                  

                             Need mentoring to improve representation                        

                             Need systemic change to improve representation              

                             Need to increase rep to change research                

                             Need to increase rep to recruit, retain Black students                      

                             Women of color on the margins              

              Women of Color                                          

                             Intersectional                  

                             Racialized experiences of Women of color, code switching                            

                             Women of color as caretakers, self-care                

                             Women of color changing higher education                        

                                            Developing support networks    

                                            How Women of color cope, succeed, resist given marginality        

                                            Resisting assimilation    

Findings re: Mentoring                                              

              At graduate student level                                          

              Bad mentoring experiences                                      

              Centrality of race                                          

              Challenges                                      

                             Assigned mentors not clicking                  

                             Did not recognize mentoring opportunities                        

                             Difficult finding now that she is in Sr position                    

                             Lack of role models with same identities              

                             Mentor mentee competitiveness              

                             Mentoring is mysterious, not understood                            

                             No compliments or encouragement                        

              Changes over time                                        

                             Early on, institution invests in mentoring                            

                             Early on, prevent from dropping out                      

                             Later, shows adaptability to changes                      

                             Mentors leave your institution over time              

                             Still need mentoring in Sr positions                        

              Characteristics of successful mentoring relationships                                    

                             Advocates                        

                             Allow for diversity of obligations and values                      

                             Attentive to intersectional identities                      

                             Emotional support                        

                             Instrumental support                    

                             Role modeling                

              Description of mentoring program or intervention activities                                      

              Experience of mentoring impacted by identity                                  

              Lack of mentoring                                        

                             Because they focused on job access and not mobility                        

                             Blames self for lack of mentoring                            

                             Did not know what did not know                            

                             Did not realize need                      

                             Does not pursue                            

                             Led to uncertainty about career path                      

                             No traditional mentors                

                             Nontraditional path in way of finding mentor                    

                             Others assumed she didn’t need it                          

                             Subbed observation of what not to do                    

                             Trained but not nurtured                          

                             Wishes had mentor                      

              Types of mentoring                                      

                             Author is dismissive of peer mentoring                  

                             Hierarchical one on one              

                             Mentoring up, supervisors                        

                             Peer mentoring                

                             They serve as the mentor                            

              Value of mentoring at individual level                                  

                             Accountability                

                             Career development and advancement                  

                             Connect with other Women of color in academia                            

                             Emotional support                        

                             Encourage self-care                      

                             Feedback on manuscripts and grant apps                            

                             How to lead, take care of staff                    

                             Increase persistence                      

                             Increased network                        

                             Learn to ask for what need                        

                             Mentoring leads to individual success                    

                             Navigational know-how              

                             Personal info, Referrals for personal matters                      

                             Problem solving, advice              

                             Provide meaning and purpose                  

                             Raise awareness              

                             Research, data analysis                

                             Role model                      

                             Socialization                    

                             Someone to battle with you in the work                

                             Understanding politics                

                             Validate experiences                    

              Value of mentoring at systemic level                                    

                             Can create change by mentoring up                        

                             Catalyst for institutional change              

              Who initiates mentor relationship                                        

                             Both institution and mentee responsible              

                             Institution                        

                             Mentee              

                             Mentor              

              Who is ideal mentor                                    

                             Can be cross cultural, White                      

                             Need multiple, diverse perspectives                        

                             Peer with same identity                

                             Senior to their current position                

                             Shared gender                  

                             Shared race                      

                             Someone dedicated to mentoring                            

                             Someone whom other professors respect              

                             White man                      

Findings not about mentoring                                                

              Challenges                                      

                             Cautious, expecting racial or gender problems                    

                             Excess demands by students for support                

                             Excess service demands              

                             Having to choose between academic and cultural values                

                             Isolation                            

                             Lack of respect from colleagues                

                             Must work harder as a woman of color                  

                             Others assume women of color have advantages                

                             Unwritten rules              

              At the individual level                                

                             Definitions of success change over time                

                             Fluid subject positions                  

                             Important to establish relationships with those in power                

                             Importance of networking and professional development              

                             Need to build support system                    

                             Re race                

                                            Cultural obligation to give back

                                            Cultural values and definitions of success            

                                            Difficulties engaging with White colleagues        

                                            Differences across URM women by race, ethnicity            

                                            Importance of community          

                                            Location on the margins              

                                            Overcoming racist culture          

                                            Separation of work and personal life        

                                            Similarities across URM women regardless of race, ethnicity        

                             See self as DEI change agent                      

                             Socialization through observation of others’ mistakes                      

              At institutional or cultural level                              

                             Adding a few Women of color to power does NOT equal real change                      

                             Call for culture change                

                             Climate as a challenge, unwelcoming                    

                             Inadequate support for Women of color              

                             Leadership must set tone for DEI                            

                             Local climate can be more challenging than national                      

                             Low retention rates at PWIs                      

                             Mentors as part of culture change                          

                             Race as primary and central                      

              Differences with White experiences                                      

Suggestions for further research                                            

              Black feminist thought, critical race theory on Black Women’s experience                            

              Black women and mentoring in STEM                                

              Compare African American women in administration with and without mentors                

              How to address cultural issues and cultural identity in mentoring                              

              On different employments, authorial voices, subject positions                                    

              Research on the mentoring experiences of Women of color beyond Black women                              

              What mentoring models work for who and in what context                                        

              Who has access to mentoring                                  

Implications                                                  

              Advice for mentors                                      

                             Commitment, not race, is most important characteristic of mentor                          

                             Mentoring needs to address professional AND personal                

                             Mentors need to recognize, honor cultural identity                          

                             Mentors need to support changing needs over time                        

                             Suggestions specific for majority mentors                            

                             White mentors must attend to cultural differences                          

              Argue for their theoretical approach                                      

              Authors give advice to junior faculty                                    

                             Ask for assistance                          

                             Develop networks                          

                             Develop research agenda                            

                             Find community of color                            

                             Find mentors to help turn dissertation into publications                

                             Have a personal life                      

                             Institutional fit matters                

                             Nurture mentoring relationships over time                        

              Call for critical approach to mentoring research                              

              Call for mentoring                                        

Lack of mentors means institutions not fully capitalized on women of color potential                            

                             Lack of mentors leads to decreased career satisfaction                    

                             Mentoring can lead to institutional change                          

                             Mentoring is crucial in early years in tenure track position                            

                             Mentoring is key to Women of color success                      

                             Mentoring needed to empower Women of color leaders                

                             Multiple mentors needed                          

                             Nontraditional folx need peer mentoring                            

              Call to institutionalize inclusionary practices                                    

              Centrality of racism and race                                    

Conclusions                    

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