The importance of faculty mentoring has been flagged in numerous reports and strategic documents developed within our University community over time. The 2011 Report of the Principal’s Task Force on Diversity, Excellence and Community Engagement recommended that the University “demonstrate a firm commitment to the recruitment, retention and professional development of diverse and excellent academic staff, administrative and support staff, and students,” placing a strong emphasis on expanding the candidate pools and the pipelines of future candidates to accelerate progress in this regard.
In 2016 the Ad Hoc Working Group on Systemic Discrimination (“Working Group”) issued its Final Report. This Working Group was convened under the umbrella of McGill’s Joint Board-Senate Committee on Equity (JBSCE) to examine concerns regarding systemic discrimination and to assist the University in gaining a better understanding of the experiences and concerns of racialized faculty and faculty from other equity-seeking groups. Its Report showed that, while many tenure-track faculty find McGill to be a positive and rewarding place to work, some reported and raised concerns about specific incidents of systemic discrimination and institutional barriers.
The Working Group recommended a series of initiatives, among which was the creation of a central mentoring program, to address the finding that a lack mentorship and support represented a barrier to advancement for some members of equity-seeking groups. This conclusion is supported by academic mentorship literature, which reveals that racialized faculty members can benefit from participating in formal mentoring programs. Such benefits include increased research productivity (Viets et al., 2009) and retention rates (Daley et al., 2006). The same authors also highlight the importance of psychosocial supports for racialized faculty, which boosts well-being, work satisfaction and retention. An effective mentoring program would therefore include a dimension aimed at providing psychosocial coaching/advising, in addition to instrumental and technical supports related to transferring institutional knowledge and enhancing skill development.
Furthermore, McGill University’s Senate and Board of Governors endorsed in spring 2020 an EDI Strategic Plan 2020-2025. This Plan commits – as part of a larger strategy to address EDI gaps among tenure-stream academic staff – to “[c]reate a mentorship network for junior professors”.
The Provost’s Faculty Mentorship Network seeks to further these objectives.