We study mentorship in scientific collaborations, where a junior scientist is supported by potentially multiple senior collaborators, without them necessarily having formal supervisory roles. We identify 3 million mentor–protégé pairs and survey a random sample, verifying that their relationship involved some form of mentorship. We find that mentorship quality predicts the scientific impact of the papers written by protégés post mentorship without their mentors. We also find that increasing the proportion of female mentors is associated not only with a reduction in post-mentorship impact of female protégés, but also a reduction in the gain of female mentors. While current diversity policies encourage same-gender mentorships to retain women in academia, our findings raise the possibility that opposite-gender mentorship may actually increase the impact of women who pursue a scientific career. These findings add a new perspective to the policy debate on how to best elevate the status of women in science.
Here, the authors study mentorship in scientific collaborations, and find that mentorship quality predicts the scientific impact of protégés post mentorship. Moreover, female protégés collaborating with male mentors become more impactful post mentorship than those who collaborate with female mentors.