Friday, June 20, 2008

Mentorship for women in technology - new studies highlight how important this actually is

One of the core goals of wimLink is to encourage women to support women.

Through actions. And mentoring. And being open about resources, and connections, and building things together.

We have been talking about developing professional mentorships for some time, and an article that I read earlier this week really highlighted the long-term value of this - the article is written by Kathleen Melymuka in ComputerWorld, but it references a larger study by Sylvia Ann Hewitt (founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy in New York), Carolyn Buck Luce and Lisa J Servon entitled “The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology”. They also write an interesting article, 'Stopping the Exodus of Women in Science' which is highly worth a look.

The study reveals that, contrary to popular beliefs, female scientists, engineers, and technologists exist in large numbers. Between the ages 25 and 30, 41% of the young talent with credentials in technology are female.

Disturbingly though, they are also abandoning their chosen professions in droves as they move towards the 35-40 age bracket, at which time 52% will drop out and leave the technology field altogether. And no - they are not leaving the workforce for family reasons...

One of the key reasons that the study propose for this is:
- mysterious and unclear means towards career progression
With the lack of women mentors, the study argues that it is harder for women to begin to map what their career path will look like - and find modeling themselves or their ambitions on female examples still very challenging;
- the sheer isolation many women cope with daily, being the only woman on the team or the only senior woman at a facility;
In a sense, the exodus of women during this time perpetuates the continued exodus of women - and adds to the difficulty of rising in the ranks when those in the ranks about face and leave.

Disturbingly, hostility in workplace culture was also a factor, with a whopping 63% of women in science, engineering and technology reporting harrassment in some form or another.

Reducing female attrition by one–quarter would add 220,000 qualified people to the highly qualified science, engineering and technology (SET) labor pool. To prevent the 'brain drain' that occurs as these women leave, and for companies to protect their investment in human capital, a handful of larger corporations are embarking on some interesting initiatives. They range from Cisco’s “Executive Talent Insertion Program”, which breaks down female isolation, to Johnson & Johnson’s “Crossing the Finish Line”, which helps young, female, multicultural employees make it into senior management.

Top 10 participating companies at this stage are:

- Microsoft
- Google
- General Electric
- Alcoa
- Intel
- Cisco
- Johnson & Johnson
- Pfizer


Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Erica. In reading this blog post, I thought that many of you would be interested in which is a site that uses mentorship as a tool to promote female leadership as well an confidence. I have gained so much from my contact with a mentor and I think any girl can!

Carolyn Blaxley said...

mentorship is incredibly important - I was fortunate enough to take part in Step Up Women's Network's mentorship program, and found it hugely helpful.
I am really looking forward to the wimlink mentorship program - this was mentioned last event, right?