Increasing Mentorship In Middle and Lower Income Countries is a Must

Mentoring is not a common practice in middle and lower income countries. Mentoring is the professional relationship where a mentor (highly experienced, highly regarded person) guides a mentee (a more junior colleague) in forging a career path ahead in their desired field. Mentoring relationships focus on both professional and personal development. In many middle and lower income countries, formal mentoring systems are rare and are largely unsupported. Research shows that this may be a reason why these countries have fallen behind, as lack of mentoring programs have inhibited the growth of their scientists and research. Strengthening mentoring programs in lower and middle income countries may help advance global health, for example.

Mentoring is especially needed for women in middle and lower income countries, where lack of support impedes growth across the board. In research, women make up less than 30 percent of the workforce, although that number is rising. However, studies indicate that women consistently publish less than their male counterparts, which is an unacceptable trend given that the motto of “publish or perish” is a hard truth in research and academia. The gender gap in publication is also devastating to the scientific world, as less discoveries are made with women trailing behind in publishing their findings. One of the ways to combat this phenomenon is to encourage mentoring relationships for early-career women as they enter the workforce. Individual development in women ripples into more advancement nationally and eventually, globally.

Emerging global health leaders in middle to lower income countries also suffer from a lack of professional mentoring systems. Many of these countries have a very hierarchical culture, stemming from their colonial past. This means power is often held in the hands of a few. An investigation into these cultures show that there is little interest in developing mentorship programs to foster more global health leadership. However, mentorship can help shed the privilege and hierarchical structures in place in many middle to lower income countries. More diverse leadership can help bring advancements to these countries and stimulate growth, especially in health and research sectors.

So… with all this information, how can we solve this problem of scarce mentorship opportunities in middle and lower income countries? Also, it cannot be only the health and research sectors that suffer from a lack of mentorship opportunities. Every kind of career benefits from a strong mentorship culture in place. With a virtual mentorship program, mentees and mentors can access a mentoring network system from anywhere. Obstacles like scarcity of mentors in a specific region are overcome, as mentees are no longer limited to finding mentors in their geographic region. There can also be more access to female mentors or mentees, as well. Mentees are also able to access mentors who live in more resource rich nations, and can have access to the developmental and strategic approaches used in richer nations. Both parties of a mentorship relationship have the benefit of access to multiple mentorship relationships and a widening of their own perspectives when interacting with a diverse group of people.

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