International Women in Engineering Day, celebrated every year on June 23, offers an opportunity to highlight the vital role that women play in engineering. It also provides a chance to reflect on the challenges in the profession. One of the greatest roadblocks women experience who have the talent, ambition and skills to be top engineers is that they simply don’t believe they can be. According to EngineeringUK, only 60% of girls aged 11 to 14 think they could become an engineer if they wanted to, compared to 72% of boys. This drops to 53% in the 16 to 19 age range, where only a quarter of girls say they would ever consider a career in engineering.
There are similar issues for all underrepresented groups. Without the advice, support and role models needed to promote engineering as a profession, individuals are less likely to consider it a viable option. And while these are in part societal issues, there is more that can be done to make an engineering career accessible to all.
Mentoring is one of the most beneficial ways of educating others about the profession; sharing the passion for STEM is a powerful thing. While there are many different forms of mentoring, the experience is rewarding and enriching for both the mentor and mentee. The following are four reasons every engineer should get involved in mentorship.
There Are Opportunities for Everyone
Whether it’s a new engineer looking for support or a seasoned professional looking to give back, mentoring can and should take place throughout all stages of a career. The move to remote and hybrid forms of meeting has made mentoring more accessible and flexible than ever before and can easily be built around any schedule.
There are often plenty of opportunities, but if the right one isn’t available, engineers should take the initiative and create it. Whether that means contacting an old school or university or speaking to an employer, there’s a strong chance that if the right mentoring opportunity doesn’t already exist, the door will be open to create it.
Action Inspires Reaction
Engineering is not as diverse as it could be, which will have to change if the industry is going to address a growing skills shortage and high demand for workers. With every conversation, the word spreads about STEM and its global — and local — benefits. As well as directly receiving inspiration and encouragement, mentees acquire the confidence to share the insights and knowledge they gain with their networks and peers, demystifying any possible misconceptions. Meanwhile, mentors gain a better understanding of what raises concern for potential applicants, and how they can improve their workplaces to attract the right talent.
People who benefit from mentoring are more likely to go on to be mentors themselves, using the interpersonal and networking skills they’ve acquired from their experiences to benefit others.
Mentoring Is a Two-Way Street
The idea of mentoring being like a student-teacher relationship, where knowledge is imparted in only one direction, is outdated. The reality is that all mentoring is reciprocal, and both parties learn something new by sharing experiences.
Mentoring, for all who participate, is a great opportunity to broaden networks, learn more about an industry, and pick up new ways of working. Mentoring can help people become more efficient as well as adaptable as the workplace changes.
Improved Communication Skills
Mentoring promotes active listening in a safe, supportive environment, increasing the confidence of mentees to speak their minds and outline their own ideas. This is a great opportunity for people to use presentational and communication skills and provides the courage to lay out their vision. This can play an important role in making workplaces better for those who already work there and more appealing for those considering applying.
Mentorship isn’t just about one-on-one relationships; small businesses can reap the rewards of dedicated mentors as well.