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“Mentoring is ethical, right?”: Women graduate students and faculty in science and engineering speak out

Laura Gelles, Idalis Villanueva, Marialuisa Di Stefano

Abstract


The relationship between graduate students and their research advisors within academia is pivotal to the development and success of the research enterprise. Graduate students rely on their faculty advisor to be a source of information, a departmental negotiator, and a role model to guide their professional and ethical behavior. However, if an advisor does not fully recognize a student’s best interest or they are unaware of how to be an “ethical mentor”, they may overlook the unique social capital of the graduate student (e.g., background, culture) and jeopardize the research relationship. This work aims to explore how women graduate students and faculties in science and engineering understand ethical mentoring within research relationships. Particularly, we are interested in understanding the six ethical mentoring principles suggested by Johnson (2016)—beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, fidelity, fairness, and privacy—all of which require an in-depth understanding for a productive research relationship. Qualitative analysis revealed that participants emphasized the principles of beneficence and fidelity, while principles of privacy and fairness were mentioned the least. Three key themes emerged from this analysis: (a) communication; (b) relative power between mentor and mentee; and (c) awareness (or a lack thereof) around implicit expectations within the research culture.


Keywords


Women; intersectionality; science; engineering; ethical mentoring

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