The Supernova Foundation is a global, virtual mentoring programme for women in physics. We have nearly 50 senior women scientists who volunteer as mentors and about 90 women undergraduate and postgraduate students from around the world. Finding we were growing faster than we had administrative capacity to support, we received funding from the OAD to hire a developer to build a sophisticated website, complete with an application system and automated feedback collection, to ensure the smooth running of the organisation. Our beautiful new website can be found here: www.supernovafoundation.org.
There is a well-known problem with retaining women in STEM fields (the so-called “leaky pipeline”). Amongst many other factors, feelings of isolation and lack of confidence in male-dominated fields can lead to women leaving for other careers (https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000253479). As illustrated further in question 12, feedback from our mentees indicate that 92% feel an increase in confidence levels after having been mentored by a senior woman and 71% say they feel less isolated (the remainder say that they didn’t feel isolated to begin with). Of the 57% of mentees who say they have considered leaving academia, 75% of those say that having a woman mentor has helped them feel more positive about staying. While only a long term analysis of the proportion of our mentees who stay in academia can truly evaluate our impact on gender equality, these early evaluations indicate that we are having a positive effect.
Testimonials from mentees:
“I consider myself incredibly lucky to have found this, because nobody in my family works in academia or remotely in the science field. So I’ve never had anyone guide me/mentor me in this field. My Supernova mentor has helped by being the role model I look up to, and move ahead in my career path.”
“The community of brilliant physicists in the Supernova Foundation has made me feel like I also have a voice as a budding research in physicist, regardless of my gender, race or ethnicity.”
“The Supernova Foundation is a fantastic, and much-needed, initiative. As a student currently in pursuit of her Master’s, I am acutely aware of the widening of the gender gap that occurs as one “”climbs the ranks”” within physics. The Supernova Foundation gives women the opportunity to be vulnerable, to connect with like-minded colleagues, and to understand themselves better. As such, I believe the Supernova Foundation is a vital aid in the moulding of a more compassionate and confident generation of women physicists.”