As we rise in our careers, it isn’t a solo journey; there are often people who reach out to lend a hand. Those mentors who have encouraged us and helped open doors are part of the story of our success.
As women in technology, it is part of our responsibility to do the same for other girls and young women interested in careers in technology. If you are looking for women interested in a mentor, you might want to start with the Million Women Mentors program.
Million Women Mentors (#MillionWMentors) supports the engagement of one million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentors (male and female) to increase the interest and confidence of girls and women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers.
They’ve broken mentoring opportunities down into five categories:
- Face to Face
- Paid Internships and Apprenticeships
- Workplace Mentoring at Your Company
Why is it important to encourage and support women in technology? The MWM website explains it beautifully:
As girls grow up, they are told they can be anything, work in any job, in any environment and achieve any goals they set for themselves. But as girls grow up and enter STEM classes they often feel pushed out by boys and pulled out by female friends and sometimes faculty comments. According to the US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, women make up 50% of the workforce, yet women only account for 24% of the STEM workface and 50% of women drop out of STEM positions in the first 10 years. However, given that 71% of jobs in 2018 will require STEM skills and STEM jobs pay women better (we learned from the White House women in STEM make 92 cents for every dollar a man makes versus the average of 77 cents on a dollar), advancing girls and retaining women in STEM will be critical.
Some businesses are already jumping on the bandwagon of building a more diverse network of employees. In fact, according to a GlassHammer article:
Intel launched their first diversity initiative, pledging $300 million to achieve a fully diverse workforce by 2020. CEO Brian Krzanich claims this is just the beginning—during his keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, he said, “It’s time to step up and do more. It’s not good enough to say we value diversity.”
Now that is putting your money where your mouth is! However, it takes everyone getting involved to spread the word, to ask the right questions and to do their part to help move the needle of women in the technology industry.
Perhaps even more important than the number of women entering technology is the number of women leaving the field! “Fifty percent of women LEAVE STEM jobs within the first ten years.” That is unacceptable. We need to find ways to address the issue and one of the best ways we, as women in technology, can help change this exodus is by mentoring women in the field.
When women feel part of the team, part of the future of an organization, they are more likely to stay. But if they don’t have someone to look up to, someone to emulate, it becomes more difficult to stay the course. It is one thing to be fierce and say “I don’t care if I’m the only girl in this coding class, I’m going to study technology.” But after years and years of feeling undervalued, it becomes more difficult to carry on.
One of my primary focuses is that of the woman in technology who has been in the job for 5-10 years and needs a little encouragement and assistance opening doors to those next steps upward within the company.
I want to help high impact women to understand the specific actions they need to take in navigating their professional path. I work with company leaders to help build a culture that is not only open to a more diverse leadership but wants to actively make the changes necessary to ensure a varied and diverse talent sitting around the boardroom table making the decisions for the future.
Each of us has the opportunity to make a difference. Whether we are just starting out and seeking a mentor or we have been in the field and want to help someone along their journey. Let’s work together to help change the landscape of talent in technology.
JJ DiGeronimo — the president of Tech Savvy Women — is a speaker, author, and thought leader for women in tech and girls and STEM. Through her work, JJ empowers professional women and consults with senior executives on strategies to retain and attract women in technology to increase thought and leadership diversity within organizations.
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