Mentorship of Women in Academic Medicine: a Systematic Review

J Gen Intern Med. 2019 Jul;34(7):1322-1329. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-04955-2.


Background: Women remain underrepresented in academic medicine, particularly in leadership positions. This lack of women in leadership has been shown to have negative implications for both patient care and educational outcomes. Similarly, the literature demonstrates that female physicians are less likely to have mentors, despite the proven benefits of mentorship for career advancement. The objective of this review is to identify and describe models of mentorship for women in academic medicine.

Methods: We searched PubMed, PsycINFO, Education Resources Information Center, and Cochrane Databases of Systematic Reviews following PRISMA guidelines in June 2017. We included original English language studies that described a mentorship program in the USA that involved academic medical doctorates and that were created for women or provided results stratified by gender.

Results: Our search returned 3625 results; 3309 references remained after removal of duplicates. Twenty articles met inclusion criteria. The majority of the programs were designed for junior faculty and used the dyad model of mentoring (i.e., one mentor/one mentee). Frequently cited objectives of these programs were to improve scholarship, promotion, and retention of female faculty. Program evaluations were primarily survey-based, with participant-reported satisfaction being the most frequent measured outcome. Most results showed very high satisfaction. Gender concordance between mentor and mentee did not impact satisfaction. Eight articles reported objective outcomes, including publications, retention, and promotion, and each of these demonstrated an improvement after program implementation.

Discussion: Our review suggests that mentorship programs designed for women, regardless of the model, are met with high satisfaction and can help promote and retain women in academic medicine. No clear best practices for mentorship emerged in the literature. Institutions, therefore, can individualize their mentorship programs and models to available resources and goals. These results demonstrate the importance of more widespread implementation of mentorship programs to more effectively facilitate professional development and success of women in academic medicine.

Keywords: academic medicine; mentoring; women.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / methods
  • Academic Medical Centers / standards*
  • Career Mobility*
  • Faculty, Medical / psychology
  • Faculty, Medical / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Mentoring / methods
  • Mentoring / standards*
  • Physicians, Women / psychology
  • Physicians, Women / standards*