The Atlantic

When Potential Mentors Are Mostly White and Male

Unconscious bias can influence who leaders choose as their protégés. Can its effects be mitigated?
Source: Robert Daly / Getty

Stacy Blake-Beard was 29 years old when she was starting out as a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. Not only was she the youngest faculty member, but she was also younger than most of her students. One day, one of her doctoral students came into her office to discuss a research project. “[The student] looked over at me and asked, ‘How old are you, anyway?’” Blake-Beard recalls. “I think I did not fit her image of what a doctoral advisor would be.”

The idea that Blake-Beard’s age somehow prevented her from being an effective professor was a bias she often faced as an advisor, she said, even though she had

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