Bioethics Blogs

Should my mentors look like me?

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

This past week I attended the annual American Society of Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) meeting in Houston, Texas. One of my favorite ASBH activities is seeing members who I consider mentors and members who are I consider to be informal mentors. While at the conference I reflected on the value of mentorship. I reflected on my luck in finding really great mentors who are active leaders in the bioethics community, great professors to their students, and mentors who have always been encouraging and helpful to me in my budding career in bioethics. But it is not lost on me that only a few of my mentors look like me. I do not share the same race with any of my mentors and very few of my mentors are the same gender as me. Taking a quick look at the ASBH members gathered in the grand ballroom of the conference hotel, if I did want to find mentors who looked like me it would be a very difficult task.

I teach a research ethics course and like similar courses, my students and I discuss the qualities that are found in a good mentor. We discuss the typical traits such as willingness to guide future scholars and introduce them to the norms of the profession. But we never discuss the unique position that future scholars of color, future scholars that are women or transgender, or future scholars that identify as LGBTQ find themselves in while trying to become members of the profession and whether their mentors who do not look like them are in the position to help them navigate issues related to their unique status.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.