FeRNet - Female Research Network
FeRNet enables female early-career researchers to exchange ideas with a more experienced person in academia and to build relationships beyond the boundaries of their own university. Assisted by a mentoring relationship and an accompanying framework program, female early-career researchers are encouraged to strategically plan and pursue their academic careers and to strengthen their self-perception as academics. The establishment of formal and informal networks creates networking opportunities that promote an improved integration of female early-career researchers into their specific academic fields.
FeRNet is a tool to support female early-career researchers on their individual career paths while sustainably increasing the proportion of female researchers in the academic community. The program specifically targets advanced female doctoral, post-doctoral, and habilitation candidates who are pursuing an academic career and whose research projects are at the University of Bamberg.
Please Note: We encourage everyone, regardless of German language skills, to participate in this program. You are welcome to find a mentor who will work with you in English; however, the events and general correspondence of the program will be mostly conducted in German. For this reason, German proficiency is extremely beneficial, but we will do what we can to help all participants benefit from the program.
What is mentoring?
The basic idea of mentoring is that a more experienced individual (a mentor) supports an often younger person (a mentee) by sharing their knowledge and experience. The mentor assists the mentee by drawing on their personal and professional experiences, giving advice, introducing them to their network, and helping them understand the workings and unwritten rules of institutions and organizations.
Reaching beyond a normal supervisor relationship, FeRNet allows the mentee to benefit from the experiences of their mentor through a personal relationship. That being said, both the mentor and mentee can benefit from a successful mentoring relationship, because this kind of dynamic offers a safe space for both parties to explore and reflect on career paths and possibilities.
Mentoring is not a new idea—the term mentor can be traced back to Greek mythology. Odysseus instructed his friend Mentor to look after and educate his son Telemachos during his absence. Informal mentoring relationships have led to successful careers in many different fields for a while now. The new factor in formal mentoring programs is the concept of organized mentoring. Beginning in Anglo-American countries, this idea has now spread to German universities as well. In an effort to promote early-career talent, institutionally supported mentoring programs support several people at the same time and provide them the opportunity to network with others.
Even though there are few educational differences between the sexes anymore today, the gender ratio still noticeably shifts on the postgraduate, postdoc, and professorial levels. There is an assumption that more women will automatically move into higher levels of the hierarchy within their respective academic fields and especially at universities as the proportion of female students increases. However, this has not yet proven true. Female early-career researchers need additional support in order to reach their goals of becoming professors.
Many point to the systemic structures of the academic community as the reason for the clear under-representation of women in the upper levels of academic hierarchy. It is not uncommon for female researchers to lack the necessary strategic support. Traditional social patterns and roles can hide the academic excellence of female early-career researchers. In addition to the phenomenon of homosociality (the fact that people like to surround themselves with people who resemble them), the difference in access between women and men to formal and informal networks has a negative impact on the career opportunities of women in academia.
For this reason, we are pursuing the goal to more effectively integrate female early-career researchers into formal networks using an institutionalized support system. As a tool for the strategic support of early-career researchers, mentoring is intended to encourage and motivate women to consistently pursue their academic careers.
About the mentoring relationship:
The mentoring relationship is created between a professor who is experienced in academia (a mentor) and the sponsored early-career researcher (a mentee). Contact between the two individuals is mediated through the program coordination.
The mentoring relationship is built upon regular exchange—independent of the framework program—during the program duration of eighteen months. The intensity, form, location, and content of the meetings between the mentee and mentor are individually determined and agreed upon by the two participants. This is formally recorded in a mentoring agreement. Goals are defined at the beginning of the mentoring relationship during the first meeting. In this way, important topics can be highlighted in advance and deepened during later discussions. Specific offers of support may also be mentioned.
Alongside the mentoring relationship, FeRNet funds a seminar program for the participating female early-career researchers. This program focuses on individual career planning and career advancement. The content of the program is coordinated with the help of the mentees. FeRNet funding round #8 will concentrate on networking and visibility. There will also be networking opportunities and fireside chats, which are intended to help mentees network with other mentee's from within the university and their specific research fields.
Eligibilty Requirements for Mentees
- The applicant is a doctoral candidate with at least one year of research experience, a postdoc, or a habilitation candidate who is pursuing an academic career.
- Their research project is based at the University of Bamberg.
- They are willing to actively work toward an academic career.
- They will participate in the framework program.
- They are willing to network with other researchers.
- They will provide regular feedback to the program administration.
- They will play an active role in the mentoring process.
Early-career researches can apply through a written application. This application should be sent as a PDF via email to mentoring.frauenbeauftragte(at)uni-bamberg.de. The application deadline for funding round #9 is expected to be in 2023.
The written application must include the following elements:
- Cover letter (incl. motivation for participation and desired goals), approx. 1-2 pages
- Mentee questionnaire (available to download as a PDF here(287.9 KB, 5 pages), in German)
- Tabular CV (with a list of publications)
- Short description of your current research project (topic, research tasks and goals, work plan, research methods, and preliminary work), approx. 1-2 pages
- Proof of your membership at the University of Bamberg, e.g. through the letter of admission to doctoral studies, a copy of your supervision agreement, your registration in the doctoral student database of the University of Bamberg, or confirmation from the department or faculty that the requirements for admission to the habilitation program have been fulfilled.
As part of the application process, applicants will be given the opportunity to list their preferred mentors.
Applicants will receive written notification of whether or not they have been accepted into the program.
Am I obligated to participate in the FeRNet informational event? Does participation improve my chances of being considered for the program?
Participation in the informational event is not a prerequisite for applying to the FeRNet program, nor does it increase your chances of placement in the mentoring program, but it does make it easier for you to apply.
Unfortunately, I am not satisfied with the supervisor of my dissertation at the University of Bamberg. By participating in the FeRNet mentoring program, can I possibly get another professor to take over the academic supervision of my dissertation?
This is not possible. Your supervisor remains the central contact person for the academic supervision of your dissertation.
What documents must I include with my application?
Please include FeRNet's application form, a short statement of motivation, a CV (with a list of publications), and a short description of your current research project (topic, research tasks and goals, work plan, research methods, and preliminary work; approx. 1-2 pages) with your application.
What should the scope of the statement of motivation be?
The letter should not exceed one to two pages and should express a clear goal and motivation regarding your intended academic career and your desire to participate in the mentoring program.
Can I choose a male mentor or do I have to choose a woman?
You are free to choose your mentor based on your preferences and individual needs. The FeRNet concept welcomes mentoring by mentors of all genders.
It is not in my best interest for my supervisor to know that I am participating in the FeRNet program. Am I obligated to inform them about my participation?
It is up to you whether or not you inform your supervisor about your participation in the program.
Forum Mentoring e. V.
FeRNet, the mentoring program of the University-wide Women's Representatives of the University of Bamberg, is a member of Forum Mentoring e. V.—a nationwide association—and supports its high-quality standards in mentoring.