ABSTRACT. This paper aims at reviewing literature on mentoring in academia, with a focus on mentoring to enhance women’s careers. A significant gender imbalance in science persists, and mentoring has been recognized as an important instrument for fostering academic women’s careers and addressing such imbalance. However, often the benefits of mentoring are taken for granted. This review aims to unpack the concept of mentoring, understand which trends characterize the mentoring literature, and analyze the evidence; moreover, it aims to discover potential gaps and propose a model to guide future research. A systematic approach is undertaken: four relevant search engines, covering more disciplines, are browsed to look for empirical studies on mentoring academic women from 1990 to March 2017. The review shows that there are some problems. First, there is no agreement on the definition of mentoring. Then, often studies are poorly grounded from a theoretical and conceptual perspective. In addition to the dominating research stream, focused on the benefits for the mentee, three other streams are consolidating: impact on the mentors, the role of group mentoring, and mentoring as an instrument to change institutions. At the end, we propose a model to guide future studies built on a longitudinal perspective.

Keywords: mentoring; women; academia; gender imbalance; literature review

How to cite: Meschitti, Viviana, and Helen Lawton Smith (2017), “Does Mentoring Make a Difference for Women Academics? Evidence from the Literature and a Guide for Future Research,” Journal of Research in Gender Studies 7(1): 166–199.

Received 10 January 2017 • Received in revised form 24 April 2017
Accepted 25 April 2017 • Available online 15 May 2017


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Department of Management,
Birkbeck, University of London
(corresponding author)
Department of Management,
Birkbeck, University of London

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