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Vol. 43 (2024): Advancing Women in Leadership Journal

Empowering Second+ Career Female Academics: Strengthening Relationships through Mentoring for Personal and Professional Growth

January 4, 2022


Mentoring of early career researchers (ECRs) in universities usually involves older, more experienced researchers providing guidance to younger researchers starting out in their careers. However, for women who enter academia as a second or more career (second +), this type of mentoring may not recognise the experiences these women bring with them or the unique barriers that they encounter. This study is an autoethnographic case study through a relational cultural theory lens of five women who entered academia later in their careers but were classified as ECRs. In order to address the unique challenges confronting them they formed a peer mentoring group. Analysis of group discussions and individual reflections resulted in the identification of common themes of disempowerment, lack of belonging and lack of collegiate relations as they confronted the often-invisible barriers presented by university processes and culture. Sharing of mutual experiences within the peer mentoring group resulted in greater self-awareness of negative self-talk and beliefs, developed understanding of university systems, empowered participants through relational problem solving and supported agency in planning career progression. The increased sense of belonging and self-efficacy that participants felt suggests that peer mentoring, rather than traditional mentoring schemes, may be of greater benefit for other second+ career female academics.

Keywords: mature female academics, mentoring, university relationships, empowerment, early career researcher(s)