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Building a European Network of Academic Mentoring Programmes for Women Scientists

Final Report Summary - EUMENT-NET (Building a European Network of Academic Mentoring Programmes for Women Scientists)

Since the 1990s, mentoring programmes have been one of the prominent measures introduced in many European countries to address the issue of gender inequality in higher education and research. The experience of numerous mentoring programmes shows that these offers have been important in providing new and efficient structures of support for women researchers aiming for a career in academia and research.

Mentoring programmes not only provide adequate support for young researchers, but also the means for confirmed women researchers to act effectively as role models. In addition, these programmes have contributed to familiarising a great number of professors with new practices of support for young researchers. By making informal rules and codes of the academic and research career apparent and by offering a forum in which to discuss them, mentoring programmes thus foster dynamics of institutional change favouring gender equality.

The EUMENT-NET project has been funded as an Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) Coordination Action. Starting in January 2007, the project phase of EUMENT-NET has stretched over 21 months. It has brought together five partners from four different countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Switzerland), with the support of an advisory board with members from France, Ireland, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

The aim of the EUMENT-NET project was to develop a European network of mentoring programmes promoting women in academia and research. By establishing such a network, the project partners' aim was to create a basis that will strengthen existing mentoring programmes in an evolving European Research Area (ERA) and promote mentoring as an effective tool for promoting gender equality in academia and research. At the end of the project phase, such a European network has successfully been established, taking the form of an association constituted under Swiss law, and is now ready to expand.

The main result of this first line of action is the EUMENT-NET guideline manual 'Establishing Mentoring in Europe. Strategies for the Promotion of Women Academics and Researchers'. The English edition of the manual was published in July 2008 under the editorship of EUMENT-NET. Herta Nöbauer and Evi Genetti from MUV, University of Vienna, acted as lead coordinators of this activity and were responsible for the scientific edition of the manual. The manual offers guidelines and best practices for establishing mentoring schemes for women academics in Europe. Based upon a systematic comparison between the four mentoring programmes involved in the EUMENT-NET project, the manual presents case studies that give readers examples of best practices in how to design, implement, and prepare the ground for mentoring programmes under specific conditions at local, regional, and national levels.
% This approach provides an important basis for transferring expert knowledge on mentoring to countries where there is as yet no mentoring scheme. In the manual, these questions are exemplified in a detailed analysis of the situation in Bulgaria. In its final part, the manual also provides a framework for how mentoring schemes can be connected throughout Europe by the transnational network EUMENT-NET in order to realise gender equality in academia more effectively.

The end of the EUMENT-NET project phase represents the beginning of the EUMENT-NET network in its new form as a legal association. The association and its members will be able to draw on the broad range of activities and the accumulated experience and expertise developed in the project. The EUMENT-NET project has allowed us to generate additional expertise on international cooperation among mentoring programmes, and on the exchange of experience and transfer of knowledge on mentoring, while taking into account the specific contexts.

For the partners involved in the project, this experience has allowed them to reflect upon practices in their specific mentoring programme, and to come up with new ideas and strategies to enhance their programme's offer and to continually improve its quality. The EUMENT-NET project has also contributed to highlight the disparities among European countries with regard to the presence of mentoring programmes designed to promote gender equality in academia and research.

At the same time, the activities in the EUMENT-NET project provide evidence for the great interest among stakeholders from countries in Southern and Eastern Europe and in the Balkans to establish mentoring programmes, just as the potential of mentoring for addressing issues of gender equality and the enhancement of women's careers is considered very high.

The experience and initiatives of projects such as EUMENT-NET will be fruitful only if additional efforts are deployed on the European level and on the level of national and regional governments to implement effective policies and instruments for gender equality in higher education and research.
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