Why Mentoring?

Mentoring is a proven and powerful driver for career development and particularly for retaining women in science. AWARD offers one year of mentoring for AWARD Fellows, and in the second year of the program, fellows in return mentor a junior scientist (known as an AWARD Fellow's Mentee).

Both men and women are eligible to volunteer as AWARD Mentors; currently 46 percent of the program's 397 mentors are men.

What does a mentor do?

Every scientist who wins an AWARD Fellowship is matched with a mentor-a senior professional-who volunteers for one year to guide the AWARD Fellow in her career development.
Mentoring in AWARD is specifically designed to help AWARD Fellows to become more technically competent, more confident, more visible, and better networked, as they build their research and leadership skills.

Mentoring allows senior professionals to share their experience, knowledge, and networks with their AWARD Fellows. AWARD Mentors also advance their own careers as they network with other fellows and mentors.

Mentors benefit from AWARD through:

  • expanded network of colleagues in African (ARD)

  • exposure to new ideas and methods from fellows

  • skills development via participation in AWARD training courses

  • deepened understanding of gender issues in ARD

  • opportunity to develop and practice a more personal leadership style

  • enhanced skills in mentoring, listening, and role modeling

  • additional recognition and respect by colleagues and those in leadership

  • personal satisfaction of contributing to the development of Africa's ARD talent pool

  • A senior scientist conducting research related to or complementary to AWARD Fellow's research or.

  • A senior professional with the ability to guide the AWARD Fellow's career growth.

  • Commitment and willingness to mentor an AWARD Fellow.

    • One must be willing to make time for the fellow
    • Attend a five-day Mentoring Orientation Workshop with the fellow

  • Available at least one hour per month for 12 months for mentoring sessions

  • A fellow's workplace supervisor is not eligible to be a mentor.

    For more information, please contact:Everylne Otunga, Fellowships Officer.

    The role of a mentor is multi-faceted, and may change or evolve according to the needs of the fellows. AWARD continuously receives feedback from current and past fellows. They describe the attributes of a good mentor as follows:

  • Concerned with the fellow's career aspirations and needs (growth in leadership skills, knowledge, self-confidence, independence, and autonomy).

  • Assertive and well organized

  • An achiever, trustworthy listener, and goal setter

  • Reliable, inspirational, empathetic, introspective, and receptive

  • Open and honest

  • Professional and approachable

  • Read More

    Hear from our Mentors

    Mentoring for Success: Five Key Principles

    By AWARD Mentor Austin Ngwira, Director of Agriculture for the Clinton Foundation in Malawi

    AWARD goes deep and wide; it would be hard for any monitoring and evaluation system to measure its full impact. I use the tools that I have learned through AWARD as a mentor every day and everywhere—at work, at home, at church, and even on my farm. The concept that AWARD teaches its fellows and mentors of developing a career development plan is a game-changer: your thinking process changes completely and you discover that the future is empty without such a plan. I now appreciate why some brilliant people I have known have achieved very little in life, with nothing to write home about. Could it be that they didn’t focus?

    Read More       Watch Videos

    Frequently asked questions

    • What is the difference between a supervisor, a coach, and a mentor?

      A coach is usually an outside consultant who is brought in to focus on the development of specific skills through one-on-one tutoring.
      In general, a supervisor's responsibility is primarily to the organization, while a mentor's focus is on the individual. Mentors and supervisors are both important and play different roles. One cannot replace the other. If the same person holds these responsibilities, priorities and roles can be confused.

      Mentoring is a process of engagement and communication. Mentors encourage the fellows to choose their own direction, offering guidance that takes into consideration the fellows' personal situations, needs and passions. An effective mentoring relationship is characterized by mutual trust, understanding, and empathy.

      Mentors and supervisors are both important and play distinct roles. One cannot replace the other. If the same person holds these responsibilities, priorities and roles can be confused.

    • What skills and experience does AWARD look for in a mentor?

      Good mentors have the following attributes:

      1. a good reputation and recognition in their field of expertise
      2. in-depth knowledge of a fellow's area of work and/or interests
      3. interpersonal coaching and leadership skills
      4. live/work close to their fellow
      5. a commitment to mentoring others
      6. empathy: the ability to connect/listen
    • How does AWARD match fellows and mentors?

      AWARD applicants are asked to recommend two potential mentors. AWARD also has a database of potential mentors. Mentors are drawn from these two sources, and AWARD's Mentoring Coordinator pairs them with fellows.

      As much as possible, AWARD tries to match fellows with their proposed mentors. In cases where no suitable mentors are proposed, or a fellow could not find a mentor, the AWARD Mentoring Coordinator will assist in finding a suitable mentor.

      Once paired, both fellows and mentors are asked to comment on the match. If either of the two is not entirely happy, the AWARD Mentoring Coordinator will suggest a different match. It is important that both partners in this relationship are comfortable with each other. Rematches are also possible during the mentoring period, but this disrupts the mentoring process. If rematches are necessary, early decisions are recommended.

    • How long are mentors expected to serve?

      Mentors serve for one year in this voluntary role.

    • Does AWARD involve only female mentors?

      No, both men and women can serve as mentors. On average, 54 percent of AWARD's mentors are female, and 46 percent are male.

    • Should mentors be from the same country where the fellow is working, or can they come from anywhere in the world?

      Our experience has shown that mentors and fellows should be within the same country, or even better, the same town (vicinity) to facilitate the monthly meetings. Only in special cases will AWARD permit a fellow to be paired with a mentor who lives outside her country.

    • Can people listed as my referees be proposed as mentors?

      Yes, they can be included as potential mentors.

    • Can my mentor be a person without an agricultural background?

      Yes. Your mentor should be someone who can support your career development in holistic terms.

    • Can an AWARD Fellow also be a mentor?

      An AWARD Fellow can only be a mentor after she has completed her two-year fellowship.

    • Can an AWARD Fellow have two mentors?

      Based on previous experiences and the logistics required, AWARD recommends that a fellow only have one mentor. However, a mentor may have more than one fellow, depending on circumstances.

    • What are some of the benefits of being a mentor?

      AWARD wants to ensure that our valued mentors have the opportunity to enhance their own skills, knowledge, and networks through their involvement with this program. Mentors benefit from AWARD through:

      1. an expanded network of colleagues in African agricultural research and development (ARD)
      2. exposure to new ideas and methods from fellows
      3. skills development via participation in AWARD training courses
      4. a deepened understanding of gender issues in ARD
      5. the opportunity to develop and practice a more personal leadership style
      6. enhanced skills in mentoring, listening, and role modeling
      7. additional recognition and respect by colleagues and those in leadership
      8. the personal satisfaction of directly contributing to the development of Africa's ARD talent pool
      9. skills development: participation in one AWARD course of choice
    • How and when does the mentoring process start?

      AWARD Fellows and Mentors attend an AWARD Mentoring Orientation Workshop to officially start the relationship. At this workshop, they are equipped with guidelines and tools to help them get to know each other's personality and working style. Each mentoring relationship is tailored to meet the AWARD Fellow's career development goals.

    • What is the AWARD Mentoring Orientation Workshop about?

      Fellows and their mentors will attend this exciting workshop, which is designed to:

      1. orient fellows to the two-year fellowship, including opportunities and resources clarify fellows' and mentors' roles and expectations
      2. help fellows and mentors to establish a solid working relationship
      3. initiate a supportive, collaborative network among fellows, mentors, and the AWARD team
      4. introduce the fellows to learning, monitoring, and evaluation as an integral part of the fellowship
      5. explain how personalities, culture, gender, values, communications, and problem-solving patterns influence personal and working relationships
    • Who is in charge of the mentoring relationship?

      Fellows and mentors are both expected to play a proactive role. Fellows bring their own expertise and knowledge to the relationship, and have a guiding role in setting the goals for the mentoring relationship. Fellows are responsible for carrying out the agreed-upon actions between mentoring meetings. The relationship is strictly a professional one. Detailed information about the role of mentors will be shared at the Mentoring Orientation Workshop.

    • How often do mentors and fellows need to meet for the relationship to work?

      We recommend that they meet a minimum of once a month for one to two hours. Meetings may be held more often, as required.

    • Where should mentoring meetings be held?

      Best practices from international mentorships reveal interesting lessons on this issue. It is recommended that the first mentoring session be held in the fellow's office, so that the mentor becomes familiar with the fellow's work environment. Future meetings should be held in a neutral place, such as a park, cafe, or meeting room. Due to potential distractions and/or interruptions, it is advisable to avoid meeting in the mentor's office, except in unavoidable circumstances.

    • Do problems occur?

      Typical problems include scheduling conflicts, unclear expectations and goals, and overstepping professional boundaries. Setting schedules, and defining expectations and modes of conflict resolution together at the beginning is crucial in order to avoid problems later. Keeping journals (provided by AWARD) up-to-date also helps to keep the mentoring relationship productive and rewarding.

    • What if we don't get along?

      It can happen that two people may not "click". Therefore, it is essential that mentoring pairs come to an agreement at the beginning about how they will deal with "chemistry" problems, so that there will be no hard feelings if the mentorship doesn't work out. If they decide to terminate the relationship, the AWARD mentoring coordinator will help with a rematch. This will be discussed further at the Mentoring Orientation Workshop.

    • Does mentoring work?

      Yes! When managed properly, mentoring can be very effective in helping women scientists develop their careers. It can also be satisfying for the mentor. AWARD has seen the positive effects of mentoring during its first five-year phase involving 250 fellows and their mentors. Many positive lessons were also learned during AWARD's pilot program.