Starting in a STEM field can be an intimidating experience for young women. Only 8% of STEM employees were women back in 1970, compared to 27% in 2019, according to research from the U.S. Census Bureau. One way to help motivate young women and girls to pursue a career in STEM and help them develop their skills to be successful is mentorship.
There’s no denying that mentorship can offer plenty of benefits to both mentees and mentors and can be a transformative experience for both parties. However, how can women in STEM become mentors, and how can women just starting in STEM find a viable mentor? Let’s explore more about what mentorship in STEM means, the potential benefits of mentoring young women interested in STEM fields, and how female professionals in STEM fields can incorporate mentorship into their careers.
The Importance of Mentoring Young Women in STEM
STEM fields are commonly viewed as masculine fields, which is one factor causing noticeable gender gaps in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs. Various other factors contribute to gender gaps in STEM. Still, the trope that men are more successful in STEM fields simply because they identify as male can have a negative impact on young women.
One of the most important benefits of mentoring young girls and women in STEM fields is seeing professionals who look like them. The more representation a girl sees in a field she’s interested in, the more likely it is they will pursue a career in that field.
Here are some of the benefits that come with female mentorship in STEM fields:
- Mentors can share wisdom, knowledge, and advice based on their experiences in STEM.
- Mentors lead by example.
- Mentors can help build young women’s confidence and self-esteem.
- Mentors show young women that they can be female and thrive in STEM fields.
- Mentors can teach young women the empowerment and resilience needed to create a more diverse, high-performing STEM industry.
So, how can women in STEM become mentors, and how can young women find viable and reliable female STEM mentors?
How Women in STEM Can Become Mentors and Mentees
The idea of becoming a mentor may seem daunting, but there are many avenues women in STEM can take to get the ball rolling. Below are some online resources women in STEM can use to become mentors in their field.
The Woman to Woman Mentoring STEM program helps connect young female students with female professionals in various STEM fields.
It’s a free program, and female students interested in STEM are matched with a one-on-one mentor. They can also participate in a “room full of STEM women.” There are workshops, networking opportunities, and career panels that can help make the experience engaging for young women pursuing careers in STEM.
One goal set out by the Women in STEM program is to help increase female representation in STEM fields. The program has received an influx of positive feedback from participants who exceeded expectations. These were some of the benefits mentees and mentors shared from their experiences in this program:
- Helped mentees better understand the track and possibilities in STEM after high school.
- Mentees learned more about the field and expertise in STEM work environments.
- Mentees felt they could help find their passion and remember how to stick with it.
- Helped mentees feel inspired by female professionals in STEM.
WiSTEM is a one-on-one mentoring relationship program that connects mentees with female mentors in the program to focus on developing their skills. Mentoring in this program helps young women grow their knowledge and network, and gain insights regarding STEM fields.
The WiSTEM program was established in 2001 to help build relationships between females in STEM fields. These three programs are examples of necessary measures organizations can take to help foster a more inclusive STEM culture. Young women and experienced female STEM leaders should consider taking advantage of these programs’ opportunities.
Closing Gender Gaps in STEM
STEM fields lack diversity, and Pew Research Center found that Black and Hispanic workers are also underrepresented in these fields. Many women studying STEM fields in college worry about being accepted in a predominantly male industry.
While much progress has been made, there are still challenges women must face when entering a STEM field. Mentorship programs may be a viable solution to some of these ongoing challenges.