• Roberta A. Downing and Faye J. Crosby, Department of Psychology, University of California at Santa Cruz; Stacy Blake-Beard, Organizational Behavior Group, Simmons School of Management.

  • Roberta A. Downing is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at The Johns Hopkins University.

  • We would like to extend our gratitude to Brenda Bolduc, Francine Deutsch, and George Goethals for making it possible for us to collect data at Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and Williams College. We are also thankful to Harriet Tenenbaum, Jill Denner, Ellen Kimmel, Judit Moschkovich, and Kristina Schmukler for their insightful comments on the draft; Eileen Zurbriggen and Kim Radmacher for their help with analyses; Gabrielle Filip-Crawford for research assistance; and Valerie Jenni for her help with the preparation of the manuscript. We are also very indebted to Tim Quinn who managed data entry. Support for the work came from a grant from the Social Sciences Division of the University of California, Santa Cruz to Faye J. Crosby.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Faye J. Crosby, Psychology Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, 277 Social Sciences II, Santa Cruz, CA 95064. E-mail:


Using a survey of women science majors, we tested the assumption that women mentors and other women guides help women students pursue the sciences. The survey explicitly distinguished among three types of guides: mentors (who provide psychosocial support), sponsors (who provide instrumental support), and role models (who act as examples) encountered before and during college. We found that over 90% of the women had a guide of one type or another, that mentors were most influential to women's pursuit of science, and that guides during college were more influential than guides prior to college. Participants reported having more female than male guides overall, but that some of the most influential guides were men.