October 2019 newsletter: Mentoring at the RES

At the 2019 Annual Conference at Warwick, the RES Women’s Committee revived the ‘Mentoring Retreat’ for UK-based female early career female lecturers and senior PhD students, previously held in 2012 and 2015. The event was a great success as Almudena Sevilla1 and Valentina Tonei2 report.

The RES Women’s Committee was very excited to hold the 2019 RES Mentoring retreat for UK-based early career female lecturers and senior PhD students. The aim of the retreat, which was in conjunction with the 2019 RES conference, was to improve mentees’ chances of academic success and to foster their careers more generally. The RES had run a couple of mentoring events in the past (in 2012 and 2015) and the feedback had been very positive. The aim of the 2019 RES Mentoring Retreat was to get this valuable event up and running again, and to provide the foundations for its continuity in years to come.

We were very pleased to have had an overwhelming enthusiastic response from junior female faculty, and particularly thrilled at the overwhelming positive response from senior faculty interested in helping redress the gender imbalance in the profession. Even more encouraging were the positive feedback we received after the retreat from both, mentors and mentees, highlighting the useful information and networking opportunities shared during the retreat.

The retreat consisted of a one and a half day’s program, beginning directly the Sunday before the RES conference and finishing in time to attend the first session of the conference on Monday. Participants were arranged into small groups of four or five mentees and assigned to two mentors based on their research area. The role of group members and mentors was to discuss and offer detailed feedback on the participants’ research, as well as discuss different career paths. In addition, the workshop included a number of larger ‘how-to’ sessions on getting published, getting grants, and career management. To show its commitment to helping junior women up the academic career ladder, the RES kindly paid for participants’ lodging and food during the retreat, and childcare provision was also offered.

The mentoring retreat was well over subscribed, with more than 100 applicants, and we had to make the difficult decision to randomly allocate participants and select about half of the applicant pool. Those applicants who were not selected last year will be given priority this year, and we strongly encourage them to apply again. Our next 2020 RES Mentoring Retreat will be held at Queen’s University Belfast from  5-6  April, and all

the information can be found here https://www.res.org.uk/about/our-structure/women-s-committee/mentoring-retreat.html.

To encourage further anyone who is thinking about participating, I thought it would be very useful to share a brief account of the information and advice one might get out of the retreat from one of the 2019 RES Mentoring Retreat’s participants.

Valentina Tonei’s experience of the workshop

When I submitted my application for securing a place in the RES women’s committee mentoring workshop, I was not sure what to expect from this event. Differently from most of the researchers who attended the workshop at the University of Warwick, I had already completed my PhD and I had some experience in grant applications. In addition, during my PhD studies I had been lucky enough to have supervisors who have guided me through the jungle of academia, supporting my personal and professional growth. However, the event went well beyond my expectations.

The two-day workshop was a great experience which contributed to increase my knowledge of the do’s and don’ts of this profession. I found the event very well organised, with a good balance between plenary sessions and informal meetings. In the first plenary session we discussed best practice in publishing in economics journals and in writing grants applications. I felt privileged to have the chance to hear from editors of important journals about how the full publishing process works, especially because this is not the type of information you can find in books or papers.

As economists, we know time is a scarce resource, especially when it comes to the time we can spend on our own research (even worse if you are a professor). So I have really appreciated how much time and effort mentors dedicated to the event, spending one hour (yes, one hour!) to discuss each of the participant’s research during small groups sessions as well as giving career advice during informal events, such as the workshop dinner. Talking about mentors, I believe that the key of the success of this event was the presence of a large number of senior researchers from different institutions and research backgrounds, all very keen to share their own experience, and to give career and personal advice. It was evident the effort made by the members of the RES women committee to make sure this was a mentoring workshop rather than just a workshop among female researchers.

I hope this event will inspire the creation of a network grouping female PhD students and early career researchers based in UK, so that we can keep sharing concerns and experiences.


1. Almudena Sevilla, Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Department of Social Sciences, UCL London

2. Valentina Tonei, Post-doctoral Researcher, University of York and UCL