A new US randomised trial suggests that mentoring programs can have surprisingly large effects:
Can Mentoring Help Female Assistant Professors? Interim Results from a Randomized Trial (unstable ungated link, stable gated link)
Francine D. Blau, Janet M. Currie, Rachel T.A. Croson, Donna K. Ginther
While much has been written about the potential benefits of mentoring in academia, very little research documents its effectiveness. We present data from a randomized controlled trial of a mentoring program for female economists organized by the Committee for the Status of Women in the Economics Profession and sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the American Economics Association. To our knowledge, this is the first randomized trial of a mentoring program in academia. We evaluate the performance of three cohorts of participants and randomly-assigned controls from 2004, 2006, and 2008. This paper presents an interim assessment of the programs effects. Our results suggest that mentoring works. After five years the 2004 treatment group averaged .4 more NSF or NIH grants and 3 additional publications, and were 25 percentage points more likely to have a top-tier publication. There are significant but smaller effects at three years post-treatment for the 2004 and 2006 cohorts combined. While it is too early to assess the ultimate effects of mentoring on the academic careers of program participants, the results suggest that this type of mentoring may be one way to help women advance in the Economics profession and, by extension, in other male-dominated academic fields.
What’s striking about this is that the intervention is only a 2-day workshop. I can’t quickly locate an up-to-date reference for the salary value of an top-tier publication, but let’s conservatively guess that it’s $100,000 of lifetime income. Given that participants are foregoing only a couple of days of their own time, that suggests they ought to be willing to pay at least $25,000 out of their own pockets to attend. (Naturally, this only works in partial equilibrium, since there are fixed number of articles published in top-tier journals each year.)