Statement from Dean Golden on article about the effect of gender on academic mentoring

The following message was sent to SMPH staff, learners and faculty on November 25, 2020. 

Dear colleagues,

Over the past few days, a controversy has erupted over an article published in Nature Communications by authors at New York University Abu Dhabi on the influence of gender in mentoring relationships in scientific fields. As Inside Higher Education reports, the authors’ conclusion that informal mentorship by women is detrimental to the careers of both mentors and mentees has been met with withering criticism of the methods and interpretation of the data, including demands for the article to be retracted.

The idea that mentorship by women is harmful is unfounded, counter-intuitive, and offensive. Such baseless assertions are damaging and counterproductive to work within and outside of our institution to increase gender diversity in leadership, reduce gender biases, and retain and promote women in STEMM.

In SMPH, we affirm and promote the equity of all genders, including women. We will continue to engage in and improve practices, policies and programs that foster the inclusion and success of women in all of our missions. I invite the SMPH community to engage in these efforts, suggest additional ways in which we can increase gender inclusivity in our school, and join in celebrations of women mentors and leaders, including the upcoming virtual UW–Madison reception for recently promoted and tenured women on December 3 at 5:00 p.m. which will feature a celebration of the nominees and recipient of the Slesinger Award for Excellence in Mentoring. For more information about this event, see and to register, visit

We are committed to providing everyone in the SMPH with outstanding mentoring from all of our talented colleagues, regardless of their gender.


Robert N. Golden, MD
Robert Turell Professor in Medical Leadership
Dean, School of Medicine and Public Health
Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs
University of Wisconsin–Madison