Lessons Learned: The Value of Mentorship
Leadership There are many fantastic programs that encourage young women and girls who are interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Scientific research and innovation inspires new thinking, challenges current norms and propel us forward as a society. In order for scientific professionals to remain competitive in these ever-changing fields, professional development and educational opportunities are vital.
Breaking the barrier
"The next generation of women scientists can and should look to previous generations to learn to balance roles they face both in their career and in life."
There are more girls than ever moving through the ranks of a STEM education, but we need to continue reminding ourselves that while graduation is a monumental achievement, it is not the finish line. These aspiring young scientists are at the first steps of what one hopes will be a long and productive career. We must ensure that they have supportive frameworks and personal growth strategies that will sustain them.
It is all too common for a young woman to graduate with an advanced degree, enter the workforce, find a whole new set of rules and barriers to navigate and then decide to leave her STEM pathway. That is exactly why the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) has invested so much in demonstrating the significant role a mentor-mentee relationship can have in a woman’s career. The process of building relationships can be long and arduous, especially when trying to find other qualified women who have the experience and time to serve as resources.
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Women have made significant progress in the workplace, but there are still obstacles to having long, successful careers while navigating personal time and family life. Over 30 years ago, the AWIS recognized the need to establish a mentorship program. At the time, 80 percent of members expressed that they faced barriers in becoming a successful scientist, while also as a woman, balancing a personal life. Even today nearly 40 percent of women have delayed having children because of their career, and 35 percent report that work conflicts with life demands two to three times each week. Now, over 25 percent of all AWIS members actively participate in a mentorship program.
A strong mentoring relationship is a key component for success as a scientist. Three years after AWIS began their mentorship program, over 60 percent of participants reported it had helped them identify and overcome workplace barriers.The next generation of women scientists can and should look to previous generations to learn to balance roles they face both in their career and in life.