Female Mentors in Science

Marc J. Lerchenmueller, Leo Schmallenbach, Karin Hoisl

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Research councils and funding bodies urge inclusive and effective mentorship, particularly calling for more female mentors who presumably bestow distinct benefits on mentees. Benefits notwithstanding, senior women, who are predestined to becoming academic mentors, still face substantial barriers in comparison to senior men across academic disciplines. The question arises whether these barriers also transfer to their protégés and whether female vs. male mentorship affects protégé outcomes differently. Combining arguments from the literature on gender differences in professional labor markets from both the demand- and supply-side, we expect that female vs. male mentorship likely depresses the evaluation of protégés’ work. Identifying mentors of a highly competitive cohort of 4,556 life scientists with early career sponsorship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), we first document a citation discount of 10% on the average paper published by a female- relative to a male-mentored protégé. Once we account for observational mentor characteristics, features of the grant, and research content, this discount disappears. Yet, when looking at the most impactful publications, an average citation discount for female-mentored protégés of 11% persists, even after controlling for all of the above. In an extension to the analysis we find suggestive evidence that this discount arises due to male authors disproportionally citing male vs. female-mentored work. We interpret these findings as an indication for a demand-side bias against female mentored protégés.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eighty-First Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsSonia Taneja
Number of pages6
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2021
Article number110
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021: Bringing the Manager Back in Management - Online, Virtual, Online
Duration: 29 Jul 20214 Aug 2021
Conference number: 81


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021
CityVirtual, Online
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings


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