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Choose to Find Her and Mentor Her

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Editor's Note: This post is part of a series produced by HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. Join the community as we discuss issues affecting women in science, technology, engineering and math.

Recently I was talking to a new friend, Leslie,* who has a very prominent career in science, about sponsorship.

In particular, I was talking about the need for women to sponsor younger women in their careers by championing them for internships, jobs, promotions, and fellowships with introductions and more.

She and many top STEM women I have spoken with in the last six weeks shared that in their careers, they had a supportive male sponsor or two whotook them under their wing and helped advance their professional careers. They often felt lonely and were often the only woman, or just one of a few.

Leslie mentioned that the top woman in her department asked her when she was transitioning to bigger and better. "Why didn't you come to me ever? Why didn't you ask for my help?"

Leslie was really surprised.

Was Leslie uncomfortable, too proud to request the help and mentoring of a more seasoned colleague? Or was the mentor unapproachable, busy, intimidating? Regardless, Leslie did well and did get support and sponsorship.

This conversation has been gnawing at me for the last 48 hours as we embark on mobilizing 1 million mentors (men and women) to support girls and young women in their STEM careers.

January is national mentoring month, so I want to challenge you to reflect for a minute and visualize:

  • A young woman who has reached out to you in the last three to six months for help.
  • Perhaps someone you met visiting a school, or who sent you a follow-up email that grabbed your attention.
  • A friend who asked you to meet with her daughter, sister or niece for career advice.
  • Maybe a young woman who left a B-level impression on you but was passed up for that internship or job at your company for a common error that you see in recent employee candidates.
  • A young woman at the gym, church, synagogue, or mosque who asked you about your career or how you balance it all.

And then take her out to coffee next week!

I mean it. Do it in honor of National Mentoring Month. She deserves a full hour of your time, and you will likely get just as much out of it.

"I would like to invite you to meet for a cup of coffee or tea."

You might have just found your mentee or the young woman you will sponsor in 2014.

Did you know that men are reportedly 42-percent more likely to have a sponsor?

And if you are willing to mentor that girl, young woman or another for a minimum of 20 hours, with skills in STEM fields, you are welcome to be one of the million and let your commitment count officially as part of the Million Women Mentors initiative. Together, let's move the needle on girls having fulfilling and well-paying careers.

P.S. If you need some leads for yourself or your company, we have 44 partners on the site with links to their STEM efforts, and they serve well over 18 million girls.

*Not her real name.