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Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) Women in Science Mentoring Program

Timeline      Eligibility      Requirements      Grants and Training      Terms      FAQs

Women Mentors 1
A persistent problem in higher education and academia is the “leaky pipeline”, a term that refers to the disproportionate fraction of qualified women who leave science as they move up the educational and career ladder. Women earn 41 percent of PhDs in STEM fields, but make up just 28 percent of tenure-track faculty. The worldwide loss of women in STEM, specifically from the transition from postdoctoral and junior faculty to senior faculty, has been explained by various reasons including: work/life balance conflicts, a hostile environment from co-workers, gender discrimination, few professional development opportunities, and a lack of role models and mentors.

Without mentors or role models, women receive limited advice about career and personal development. A mentor does not direct, but rather guides, and becomes a colleague that a mentee can depend on and trust. Mentoring helps address the feelings of isolation and marginalization that women in academic settings often report. In a 2017 study, women in engineering assigned a female mentor experienced more belonging, motivation and confidence, better retention in science, and greater career aspirations than women assigned either a male mentor, or no mentor at all. When more junior level professionals are more motivated and confident and have positive mentors and role models, they are also more likely to successfully win awards for research funding, aiding their movement up the professional career ladder.

The USAID PEER Program receives applications from across the globe, with the numbers varying regionally by gender. In the 2015 UNESCO Science Report, it was reported that, worldwide, women make up only 28% of people with careers in science, with regional figures ranging from 18.9% (Asia) to 44.3% (Latin America). The PEER Program has received more than 2,500 applications in six years, with fewer women applying from the Sub Saharan Africa region (just 18.4%, 11.7% lower than the UNESCO statistics) and the Arab States region (just 26.7%, 10.1% lower than the UNESCO statistics). Reasons for fewer applicants from these regions may include: lack of experience applying for international research awards, insufficient time due to other work/life responsibilities, lack of confidence, lack of role models that have won international research grants in the past, and/or few mentors to guide them through the process.

While there are likely many interacting factors that prevent postdocs and junior women faculty from advancing their careers in science and applying for international research awards, the PEER Women in Science Mentoring Program has been created to help retain women in science, build self-confidence, and teach early career scientists to write successful international research awards. This new mentoring program, which is inviting applications from now through March 16, 2018, will allow time and space for cohorts of mentees (postdocs and junior faculty) and mentors (senior faculty) to build personal and professional development in topics such as work-life balance, networking, research proposal writing, and publishing research papers. Following the mentoring program, the participating mentees (junior faculty and postdocs) will be eligible to apply for competitively reviewed awards that will provide funds for them to conduct a pilot research project.

A full list of selected participants is available here.

Timeline: Application Process

 February 11, 2018  Applications Open
 March 16, 2018  Mentor-mentee cohort applications due
 Mid-May 2018  Cohorts selected and notified of their award
 July 10-13, 2018  Coach career development training 
 August 1, 2018  One year mentor-mentee program begins
 April 2019   Research grant funding for mentees - applications open
 Summer 2019  Research grant funding for mentees - applications due
 Fall  2019  Research grant funding for mentees - awardees announced
Women Mentors

Eligibility: Mentor-Mentee Cohort Application Submission Instructions

Eligible Countries
Mentors and mentees must be permanent residents or citizens, residing in their home country, from any of the following countries to be eligible.

Sub-Saharan Africa:
Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia

Arab States:
Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, West Bank/Gaza

Cohort Structure
Cohorts should be made up of one woman senior faculty mentor and 2-4 women mentees (postdocs and/or junior faculty). Junior faculty would be defined as assistant professors and/or non-tenured faculty members. Mentors must hold PhDs in a STEM field. MDs with a focus on research are qualified to apply. Junior faculty/postdocs and senior faculty cohorts do not have to be from the same scientific field, but cohorts with similar research interests are encouraged. Cohorts must be located at the same or nearby universities in their countries of citizenship/permanent residency, and be able to meet regularly in person. There will not be any travel funds provided to support cohort meetups, and videoconferencing is not encouraged.

Mentor and mentee cohorts should gather their application materials together and the mentor should submit one application on behalf of the cohort into PEER's online application system.

Application Packet Requirements

Each mentor should include the following items in the application packet:
  • CV/Resume
    • Please make sure to also include information on international collaboration and success with international research awards.
    • Note where research projects/publications have been led by, or included, junior faculty, postdocs, graduate students or undergraduates.
    • Include relevant training in mentoring, leadership, career and professional development, etc, if any.
  • Statement of interest that includes the following points. Statements should no more than 3,500 characters in length (approximately  500 words, or one page, single spaced).
    • The role of mentors in your career development.
    • Why you would like to be a mentor in this program.
    • How you plan to help grow the careers and networks of your mentees.
Each mentee should send the following items to the mentor to include in the application packet:
  • CV/Resume
  • Statement of interest that includes the following points. Statements should no more than 3,500 characters in length (approximately  500 words, or one page, single spaced).
    • Why mentoring is important to you.
    • Why you would like to be a part of this program.
    • How you see this program contributing to your growth as a scientist and future mentor.
    • What skills would you like do develop that will allow you to be a mentor in the future?

Mentorship Training and Seed Grants

For All Selected Cohorts

COACh Training
  • Mentors and mentees will attend a three-day training program (likely in Rwanda) run by COACh Global, at which all cohorts will convene following notification of their selection in the program. All travel to the training, lodging, meals, and training will be fully funded for the selected cohorts.
  • At the end of the three-day training, mentors will have a mentorship plan for the year and mentees will have a research plan.
COACh Training Schedule
  • Day 1: Mentoring Workshop for mentors and mentees. Topics covered will include: definition of mentoring and being a mentee, expectations for mentees and mentors, techniques for mentors and mentees including active listening and giving feedback. Day one will conclude with a practice mentoring session.
  • Day 2: Publishing and grant writing. Senior faculty mentors will have the opportunity to share their experiences and expertise with successes in this professional arena. Day two will conclude with a talk and activity about negotiation and other professional development topics useful for both junior faculty mentees and senior faculty mentors..
  • Day 3: Groups will design the mentor and mentee plans. Plans will include meetings and activities to cover throughout the year, including timelines for research plans

Terms of Award

  • Receive a $2,000 USD honorarium (paid to the individual) for creating and following the mentor plan for mentees as created during their mentor training. Mentors will receive $1,000 after the mentoring plan is submitted following the COACh workshop. Mentors will receive final $1,000 after the final report is submitted at the conclusion of the year-long program.
  • Receive mentor/mentee training by COACh Global. COACh will also recognize and feature the mentors during the training in panels/conversations about successes in funding and publishing. Mentors will be recognized for their successful mentorship with a certificate and may be highlighted in blogs and other public facing media throughout the year.
  • Receive mentee/mentor training by COACh Global.
  • Opportunity to compete for small seed grants ($10,000 USD) following their participation in the year-long mentoring program.
  • Terms of Seed Funding for Mentees:
    • Mentees will be invited to submit a proposal for a hypothesis-driven, one-year long research project and a plan for mentoring two postdocs, graduate students, or undergraduate students with a maximum budget of $10,000 USD, to be paid to the higher education institution where the mentee is employed. Funds must be managed by the institution in accordance with standard regulations governing the use of USAID funds. 
    • The research project should be a pilot, using existing equipment at the university. The funding can be used for supplies and other small expenses but not large pieces of equipment.
    • Mentees should draw heavily on their new, collaborative networks for a successful pilot project.
    • Data collected during the pilot project should be used as leverage when applying for larger international and national grants and funding.
    • Mentees are encouraged to think about how to best showcase their pilot research at an international research conference following completion of the award.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What if I have a group of 5 or 6 women that I mentor?
Unfortunately we can’t have groups of larger than 4.

If one of the mentees is an undergraduate or grad student and the others are faculty and postdocs, can I still apply?
All mentees must be employed by their university as junior faculty to be eligible. Mentees must have at least a Masters degree as well.

Why isn’t my country eligible? Can I still apply?
We were not able to include all countries and focused on priority countries for mentoring in higher education institutions with USAID. We are only accepting applications for citizens and permanent residents of the countries listed above. If you are not a citizen/permanent resident one of the countries, you are not eligible to apply.

Is it possible to meet over Skype or another video teleconferencing software instead of in person?
Mentoring is much more effective if it is done in person. If you are planning on being out of town from your home institution regularly during the mentoring period, we suggest you do not apply.

Will you help me find a mentor or mentees?
We are not able to help you find mentors or mentees. For postdocs and junior faculty, we suggest you approach a senior faculty member and discuss mentorship with them. For mentors, approach junior faculty and postdocs in your university and discuss mentorship with them. Then you will see if there are mutual interests.

I am a citizen/resident of X country but my mentor/mentee is not. Can we still apply?
All members of the cohort (mentors and mentees) must be permanent residents or citizens of the country where the higher education institution is located.

I am a professor at the University but I only have a Masters degree. Am I qualified to be a mentee? 
Mentors must have PhDs and be in a senior faculty role. Junior faculty with Masters degrees are qualified to be a mentee if they are a faculty member. 

Can I do a clinical trial with my seed funding?
No you cannot do a clinical trial with the seed funding.

Can I do research involving human subjects with my seed funding?
No you cannot do research involving human subjects with the seed funding.

I am doing a postdoc in a country that is not my country of citizenship or permanent residency. Can I be a mentee?
You can be a mentee if you are finishing your postdoc and moving back to your country of citizenship or permanent residency and entering a faculty position. You must be in the country for the entire term of the cohort.

If I am a professor in the USA with citizenship from an eligible country and there are 2-4 other more junior professors in the USA, also citizens from the same eligible country, can we apply for the award?
All applicants must be in the country of their citizenship or permanent residency for the entirety of the mentoring period. Applicants must be professors in that country, not in the USA.

If I am a professor in the USA or another country but I can travel back and forth to my home country to mentor/mentee, am I eligible to apply?
All members of the cohort (mentor and mentees) must be employed by and reside in the country of their citizenship, one of the eligible countries on the list above.

I am a male professor who wants to mentor a group of junior women at my institution. Can I still apply?
This program is designed to support only women as both mentors and mentees, so you would not be eligible to apply.

There are four mentees in my cohort, do we need to submit four applications?
No, you submit one application for each cohort. There is space in the online system for two to four mentees to input their information.

Is English a requirement of this program?
The professional training and reporting will be in English, but the interaction between mentors and mentees does not need to be.

Are researchers at non-academic research institutions eligible to apply?
Yes, mentors and mentees at research institutions are eligible for this mentorship program.

Is it possible to have a mentor in the US or another country while I am in an eligible country?
No, all mentors and mentees must be in the same country and preferably at the same institution.

Is there an age limit for a mentor or mentee?

Are women researchers in the social sciences eligible to apply?
Yes, as long as they have PhDs or Masters degrees and are junior faculty members for mentees.