The BPA/SWIP-UK Mentoring Scheme for Women in Philosophy

Why a mentoring scheme?

Women are under-represented in UK philosophy at all levels, from Masters students to professors. The British Philosophical Association and the Society for Women in Philosophy (UK) have produced a comprehensive report, Women in Philosophy in the UK, which includes some recommendations and suggestions that individuals, departments, conference organisers and so on can follow in order to increase the representation of women at all levels.

Mentoring is a key mechanism by which women can gain valuable skills, advice, perspective, and experience that will help them to realise their potential and develop their academic careers. Studies have shown that women in male-dominated fields often receive far less mentoring than their male colleagues. With this in mind, we have developed a national scheme so that all women in philosophy from first-year PhD to Senior Lecturer are able to take advantage of the benefits that mentoring has to offer, if they wish to do so.

The aims of the scheme are to:

Who can join the scheme?

The scheme is open to all women from first-year PhD level onwards who are students of philosophy or employed on teaching and/or research contracts (including fractional contracts) in universities in the UK or Ireland. It is also open to women philosophers who are between jobs or who have completed their PhD and do not currently have - but are aiming to secure - academic employment.

How does the scheme work?

Once you have been assigned a mentor (see below), mentor and mentee will agree a 'mentoring agreement', which will be confidential between you and your mentor. As part of this process, both parties need to be clear as to expectations. This should include what they expect to achieve, the means by which it should be achieved and the timeframe. In some cases this will involve sending a personal development plan and CV. In other cases it might include a log book or diary.

When mentoring takes place face-to-face, the mentor and mentee agree to the quantity and length of meetings. Where mentoring takes place over email, in order to manage the amount of email traffic it is important to be clear as to how often communication should take place, the aims and objectives of communication and the anticipated speed of response. Where some face-to-face meetings are part of the agreement, again the number and duration should be specified.

Mentoring agreements will normally be for one year in the first instance, though this period can be curtailed by the mentee at any time for any reason, and by the mentor if the mentee has violated the terms of the mentoring agreement. They can also be extended with the agreement of both mentor and mentee. In addition, goals should be clearly identified. These might include:

In addition, your mentor may of course be able to help you or provide advice on an ad hoc basis with a range of other issues, e.g. implementing the recommendations in the Women in Philosophy in the UK report in your department, problems with colleagues and/or students, etc.

Please note, however, that the mentor should not be expected to act as a source of comments and suggestions on specific pieces of philosophical work. Mentors will not agree to provide any advice that specifically relates to the completion or submission of a PhD thesis, since this falls within the remit of one's PhD supervisor.

Who are acting as mentors?

We have a growing list of prospective mentors; these are all academics in permanent employment (both male and female) at Lecturer level or above. Once you have submitted your 'mentee application form' (see below), we will aim to match your requirements with one of our mentors, or, if we cannot find a suitable match, we may seek to recruit one.

Matching mentees and mentors

Mentees will be matched with mentors who are more senior (e.g. if you are a PhD student you may be matched with a lecturer or above; if you are a senior lecturer or reader you will be matched with a professor).

We appreciate that different mentees will have different preferences for the kind of mentor they want, based on what specific goals they are hoping to achieve. For this reason, the mentee application form lists some standard preferences (gender, subject area, close relative ages, family responsibilities, and face-to-face meeting), but feel free to add your own if these don't cover what you're looking for. (For example, you may be planning on applying for academic positions in the US, and would like a mentor who is familiar with US hiring procedures and philosophy departments.)

The form allows you to select, in order, your two strongest preferences. We will do our best to match you with a mentor who matches your preferences, but this may not always be possible.

What if it's not working out?

You can cancel your mentoring agreement at any time without providing a reason (though of course you may wish to provide a reason, which we will not pass on to the mentor unless you ask us to). If you do cancel your agreement you may also request a new mentor: simply fill in and send us a new form.


We would like to keep track of the extent to which the scheme is succeeding, and for this reason would like both you and your mentor to complete a short questionnaire when your mentoring contract expires (or after one year if you have agreed to extend it).

What do I do if I want to join the scheme?

It's easy: go to the mentee application form, or mentor application form, follow the instructions, and wait for us to contact you!

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