Impact of Mentoring on Academic Career Success for Women in Medicine: A Systematic Review

Acad Med. 2022 Mar 1;97(3):444-458. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004563.


Purpose: Research has shown that barriers to career success in academic medicine disproportionately affect women. These barriers include inadequate mentoring, which may perpetuate the underrepresentation of women in senior leadership positions. The purpose of this review was to summarize the qualitative and quantitative evidence of the impact of mentoring on women's career outcomes and to inform future interventions to support the promotion and retention of women in academic medicine.

Method: The authors conducted a systematic review of original research published in English-language, peer-reviewed journals through March 20, 2020. Search terms related to mentorship, women, and academic medicine. The authors searched MEDLINE, Embase, Scopus, Current Contents Connect via Web of Science, Cochrane Library, and PsycINFO. They excluded studies not specifically addressing women and those without gender-stratified outcomes. They extracted and analyzed the following data: study design, population, sample size, response rate, participant age, percentage of women, mentoring prevalence, and outcomes.

Results: Of 2,439 citations identified, 91 studies met the inclusion criteria, including 65 quantitative and 26 qualitative studies. Mentoring was associated with objective and subjective measures of career success. Women perceived mentorship to be more valuable to their career development yet were more likely to report having no mentor. Additionally, women were more likely to report lower levels of research productivity, less career satisfaction, and greater barriers to promotion. Qualitative results indicated that women had less access to informal mentoring and family responsibilities had a greater effect on their career outcomes. Professional networking, female mentors, and relational aspects of mentoring were common themes.

Conclusions: This review examined gender disparities in mentoring and the impact on research productivity, promotion success, and career satisfaction for women in academic medicine. Institution-supported mentoring programs are needed to facilitate identification of appropriate mentors and promotion of a more equitable academic career environment for women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Academic Success*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Medicine*
  • Mentoring*
  • Mentors