We're constantly hearing the buzz around mentorship. What is the actual value of mentorship? How do you get the most out of it? I recently participated on a panel discussion hosted by the US Dept. of State where twenty-seven TechGirls from eight Middle Eastern countries and the Palestinian Territories gathered together in Washington, D.C. on July 16 at the Microsoft HQ campus.
Microsoft panel discussion with(Front: L-R) Helen Milby of Global WIN, April Boyd of Yahoo, Kelly Ferguson of Columbia Green Technologies, Ivo Lukas of 24Notion/Girls in Tech and Staci Pies of Microsoft
The conversation built upon one of the recent posts on the value of mentorship and STEM education. As we took part in candid conversation about advancing the status of women and girls from all over the world, numerous questions were raised. Most importantly: how do girls and women break into these industries? Even today, biases and hurdles exist for women and girls attempting to enter STEM fields. The perception of women being less skilled in these fields than men causes both barriers to entry and difficulties in maintaining positions in technology. Once into the technology field, there is the daunting challenge of momentum. Maintaining support and the ability to keep women and girls in STEM fields is equally as important as getting a "foot in the door." How do we do this? I'll reiterate again, that mentorship is an amazing gateway to support and success. What follows are a few pointers from our panel about mentorship and how to find a mentor.
@TechGirls 16 Jul Ready for today's meeting with an expert panel on the value of mentoring! @MsSonicFlare @24Notion @Microsoft #TG2013
@techGirls @24Notion We are geeking out @Microsoft! "The more specific you can be about what you want, the more likely people will be to invest in you." Ivo Lukas, panelist musing on #mentors
@TechGirls 16 Jul "Informational interviews. Go to those very well prepared. Go with things you want to learn." April Boyd #TG2013Expand
@TechGirls 16 Jul Online technology can help you to find a mentor. @facebook @LinkedIn #TG2013Expand
@TechGirls 16 Jul @MsSonicFlare "Mentors can't give you all the answers but they can give you a runway." #TG2013Expand
@TechGirls 16 Jul @MsSonicFlare: find #mentors that compliment and work to improve your weaknesses and break you out of your comfort zone #TG2013Expand
@TechGirls 16 Jul Kelly Ferguson- I opened my eyes and saw all of the available paths I had to choose from. #ask for what you want #possibilities #TG2013Expand
@TechGirls 16 Jul @Microsoft Staci Pies says It's important to have female relationships regardless of what you do with your life. #female #support #TG2013Expand
@TechGirls 16 Jul @helenmilby think of a #mentor as a #sponsor what will that person give you to help see you to success? #TG2013Expand
@TechGirls 16 Jul "You have to be a Rhodes Scholar to fax and a Fulbright to photocopy." April On her 1st internship. Even the mundane tasks matter. #TG2013Expand
@TechGirls 16 Jul Accept candid feedback. It will open opportunities for you that might not be here otherwise. April Boyd @YahooDC #TG2013Expand
@TechGirls 16 Jul #advice mentors can guide you both in your career path and related fields- choose a mentor who shakes you up -April Boyd @YahooDC #TG2013
So, how do you go about building your own advisory board of mentors? Simply start within your own environment. Your teachers, family members, friends, colleagues and school buddies can all help you connect with potential mentors. Don't be afraid to ask someone outside of your immediate network, though. Introduce yourself to a person you admire in a leadership position through connecting over a common passion or interest. Enthusiasm goes a long way!
Our girls said that they were inspired and 'pumped up' by us gathering to share our testimonies. But, in reality, I was more inspired by them. They are the smart, young women who will lead our next generations toward a united and bright future for women leaders in STEM fields. From building a clean campaign, gaming and being the tech girl in their hosted cities, these girls are the epitome of inspiration. They are always open to trying something new and are not afraid to speak their minds. It's definitely a life-changing experience to be participating in this TechGirls program, and one that these amazing girls will not soon forget.
One girl said, "my parents thought there was no way I would get picked, but I did." She sat in the room with twenty-six other girls who were also humbled to be there. Looking around the room, it was clear that women are emerging as STEM leaders globally, and we are here to stay.
TechGirls was first announced in 2011, on the heels of the successful first year of TechWomen, a mentoring program that pairs emerging female leaders with top American women in the technology sector. The TechGirls exchange program aims to inspire girls from the Middle East and North Africa to pursue higher education and careers in technology through hands-on skills development.
Follow hashtag #TG2013 to join the conversation on Twitter.
A special 'thanks' to everyone who participated on this awesome engagement!