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

Selected Cohorts 2018 

The following ten cohorts were selected to be part of the mentoring program in 2018:

Cohort 1 - NIGERIA
University of Ibadan

Oluwatoyin Odeku

Temitayo Ajayi
Adebunmi Oyekola
Olufunke Akin-Ajani
Tolulope Ajala
 Cohort 6 - TUNISIA 
Institut Pasteur de Tunis

Ikram Guizani

Insaf Bel Hadj Ali
Emna Harigua Souiai
Monia Ardhaoui

Cohort 2 - GHANA
CSIR-Food Research Institute

Charlotte Oduro-Yeboah

Evelyn Buckman
Leonora Charlotte Baffour
Anthonia Andoh-Odoom

 Cohort 7 - KENYA
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

Mary Abukutsa-Onyango

Agnes Kavoo
Cecilia Mweu
Sheila Ommeh
Cohort 3 - ETHIOPIA
Addis Ababa University

Yalemtsehay Mekonnen

Tigist Wondimu
Helen Negussie
Selam Meseret (Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute)
 Cohort 8 - SOUTH AFRICA
National Institute for Occupational Health

Boitumelo Kgarebe

Maya Makatini
Ildiko Wainer
(University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)
Cohort 4 - NIGERIA
Federal University

Sylvia Uzochukwu

Modinat Adekoya
Elizabeth Adesemoye
Folake Idowu-Adebayo
Cordelia Jaiyeoba
 Cohort 9 - KENYA
Kenyatta University

Caroline Thoruwa

Lucy Kiruri
Lilian Gatogo
Mary Kanui (World Agroforestry Centre)
Cohort 5 - TUNISIA
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique de Tunisie

Samia Gargouri

Imen Zaghdoudi Hemissi
Rifka Hammami
 Cohort 10 - GHANA
University of Health and Allied Sciences

Margaret Gyapong

Grace Kpeli
Adjoa Boakye

The following mentees were selected to receive seed funding after completing the one-year mentorship.

Dr. Lilian W. Kamau-Gatogo
Kenyatta University - Kenya
Development of a visual detection microarray based method for the detection of multiple Aflatoxin producing Aspergillus species

Dr. Agnes Kavoo
Jomo Kenyatta University - Kenya
Towards Improving Nutritional Outcomes through Adoption of Biofortified Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato Climate Smart Technologies in Isiolo County, Kenya

Dr. Cecilia Mbithe Mweu
Jomo Kenyatta University – Kenya
Evaluation of nutritional and pharmacological potential of Kenyan Doum Palm: towards improved livelihoods

Dr. Emna Harigua
Institut Pasteur de Tunis - Tunisia
AIR2D: Algorithm for an Integrative Repurposing & Discovery of Drugs against Neglected Tropical Diseases. Leishmaniases as application diseases

Dr. Insaf Ben Hadj Ali Insaf
Institut Pasteur de Tunis - Tunisia
POC CL diagnosis: Handheld Fast PCR assays and Lateral flow detection for Leishmania parasites detection and identification

Dr. Adjoa A. Boakye
University of Health and Allied Sciences - Ghana
The gut microbiome composition and its implication for hypertension

Dr. Selam Meseret
Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute - Ethiopia
Unlock the potential of Begait cattle: Genome Wide Assessment of Genetic Diversity, Population Structure and Association Study using High Density Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNPs) Marker

Mrs. Folake Idowu-Adebayo
Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) - Nigeria
Food neophobia and willingness to try fortified foods among Nigerians