Written by Stephanie House and Kim Spencer
While much research has been published on the impact of diversity training, little is known about how faculty perceive diversity or internalize and act on training content. Understanding this process was the impetus for the recently published article, “Understanding how diversity training impacts faculty mentors’ awareness and behavior,” in the International Journal on Mentoring and Coaching in Education.
Research was based on a secondary qualitative analysis of interviews with 135 trained mentors from 16 academic health institutions across the US and Puerto Rico, collected as part of a randomized controlled trial. Initial analysis determined that the vast majority of mentors reported some change in their mentoring behavior after attending mentor training (Pfund et al. 2014). Making extensive use of participant voices, the current research sought to understand not only if, but specifically how mentors changed regarding their awareness and behavior around diversity in their mentoring relationships.
Findings indicate that some mentors reported an increased awareness about diversity, including an expanded definition, a greater appreciation for differences among mentees, and acknowledgment of personal bias. The few who reported changing their mentoring practices primarily sought ways to improve communication and understanding with mentees. Yet most had difficulty acting on this awareness. While the process-based approach was very effective for other domains of mentoring, most workshop participants found it challenging to generate strategies around addressing diversity, and in particular implicit bias.
These findings suggest that incorporating more concrete tools and strategies may promote behavioral change among training participants. Further, one-hour of dedicated diversity content is insufficient, even when the topic is integrated throughout the training. These insights were considered in the development of the 6-hour Culturally Aware Mentor (CAM) training. It incorporates didactic material to fill any knowledge gaps and allows a deeper introspective dive into cultural awareness while introducing strategies for change. NRMN researchers are hopeful that the CAM training and other diversity initiatives will help mentors be better prepared to work with mentees from diverse backgrounds and cultivate a more diverse scientific workforce.