October 2004 News Release
Release: October 28, 2004
Contact: Carol Muller, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
KEEPING MINORITY COLLEGE AND GRADUATE STUDENTS IN ENGINEERING AND SCIENCE: E-MENTORING SUCCEEDS
(San Jose, CA) - As universities grapple with the best way to attract and
keep minority students, particularly in engineering and the sciences, a new
study has found that students of color indicate even more so than their
white counterparts that their MentorNet e-mentoring relationship was
instrumental in helping them complete their degree programs in these fields
Women of color often face huge hurdles during their educational experience
and throughout their career path. MentorNet, an online mentoring service
for women engineers and scientists, helps students meet the challenges by
providing guidance and support from a mentor who is already established in a
A new study sponsored by the Engineering Information Foundation focused on
the experiences of women of color in MentorNet's One-on-One e-mentoring
program, comparing experiences and perceptions of students who are African
American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latina and white.
"Students of color indicate even more so than white students that their
e-mentor was 'the main reason I got through college this year,'" said Carol
Muller, CEO of the nonprofit MentorNet. "These students also indicated that
participating in the MentorNet program increased their motivation to succeed
in their chosen field. The findings expand upon the prevailing wisdom that
students of color can be best mentored by mentors of color. Clearly,
protégés of color still stand to gain even if their mentors are not of the
According to the study, students of color want to discuss issues of race and
ethnicity with their mentors. African American students were also more
interested in being matched with a mentor of their own race than were all
other students. Although few matches could be made that matched these
students with mentors of the same ethnicity and white mentors felt less
comfortable in discussing issues related to diversity than did women of
color, students of color in the program nonetheless still expressed overall
high satisfaction with their one-on-one MentorNet relationship.
Most of the professionals who serve as mentors through MentorNet's
One-on-One program, men and women of all races and ethnicities, find that in
helping students, they also help themselves. But mentors of color were
significantly more apt to experience a number of benefits than white
mentors-particularly an increase in self-confidence.
"It is noteworthy that mentors of color reported that their mentoring
experiences had a beneficial impact on several competencies related to their
career," said Stacy Blake-Beard, Associate Professor, School of Management
and Research Faculty, Center for Gender in Organizations, Simmons College,
an expert and researcher on best practices in mentoring and the career
experiences of women of color. "And students of color noted that their
experience in MentorNet was a critical contributing factor in their decision
to stay in college. These results merit our attention and highlight the
power of electronic communication technologies to enable relationships
across difference and geography."
"We need to do all we can to motivate and retain women students in science
and engineering if we are to achieve the benefits of a truly diverse
technical workforce," said Margaret Ashida, Director, Corporate University
Relations, IBM Corporation. "We've known for years that mentoring is an
important strategy towards this goal. This study is further evidence that
women of color can benefit from MentorNet's research-based e-mentoring
programs despite the lower numbers of available same-race mentors."
MentorNet's student-protégé participants are considerably more ethnically
diverse than the pool of professionals volunteering to serve as mentors,
reflecting the current demographics of higher education and of the
scientific and technical workforce. So MentorNet is eager to attract more
scientific and technical professionals of color to serve as mentors to
address students' interests. Those interested in serving as mentors may
volunteer at www.MentorNet.net/join.
The study was conducted by SJB Consulting of New York, NY and both a summary
and the full report are available at
MentorNet, currently headquartered at San Jose State University in San Jose, California, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization working to further women’s progress in scientific and technical fields through the use of a dynamic, technology-supported mentoring program. MentorNet aims to advance women and society, and enhance engineering and related sciences, by promoting a diversified, expanded and talented workforce. In partnership with colleges and universities, corporations, government labs and agencies and professional societies, MentorNet is international in scope, serving students and professionals from all over the world. Major funding is provided by Alcoa Foundation, AT&T Foundation, IBM, the National Science Foundation, Cisco Systems, and Symantec.
Engineering Information Foundation's mission is to improve worldwide engineering education and practice through information technology and the recruitment of women. For more information see www.eifgrants.org.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. HRD0001388, HRD-0123319, SBE-0318510, and HRD-0454569. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
# # #