A Developmental Approach to Diversifying Neuroscience Through Effective Mentorship Practices: Perspectives on Cross-Identity Mentorship and a Critical Call to Action


Many early-career neuroscientists with diverse identities may not have mentors who are more advanced in the neuroscience pipeline and have a congruent identity due to historic biases, laws, and policies impacting access to education. Cross-identity mentoring relationships pose challenges and power imbalances that impact the retention of diverse early career neuroscientists, but also hold the potential for a mutually enriching and collaborative relationship that fosters the mentee’s success. Additionally, the barriers faced by diverse mentees and their mentorship needs may evolve with career progression and require developmental considerations. This article provides perspectives on factors that impact cross-identity mentorship from individuals participating in Diversifying the Community of Neuroscience (CNS) – a longitudinal, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) R25 neuroscience mentorship program developed to increase diversity in the neurosciences. Participants in Diversifying CNS were 14 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early career faculty who completed an online qualitative survey on cross-identity mentorship practices that impact their experience in neuroscience fields. Qualitative survey data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis and resulted in four themes across career levels: (1) approach to mentorship and interpersonal dynamics, (2) allyship and management of power imbalance, (3) academic sponsorship, and (4) institutional barriers impacting navigation of academia. These themes, along with identified mentorship needs by developmental stage, provide insights mentors can use to better support the success of their mentees with diverse intersectional identities. As highlighted in our discussion, a mentor’s awareness of systemic barriers along with active allyship are foundational for their role.

Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience