August 11, 2017 Last Updated 10:33 am

How Mentorship Can Help Keep Women Engaged in Tech

Guest column: ‘The best mentors don’t simply answer questions; they teach actual strategies,’ says Monica Eaton-Cardone, whose column on monetizing digital content appeared last fall

Women are underrepresented in IT and other tech fields. That’s nothing new at this point; in fact, the portion of tech jobs filled by women steadily declined over the last few decades to fewer than one in five.

I’ve talked about the need to encourage girls and young women to explore opportunities in technology. However, that’s just half the battle. If we’re to achieve true gender parity in tech, we’ll need to go beyond the classroom.

Mentorship Can Decrease Turnover

Perhaps more alarming than the rate of overall participation among women in tech is the rate at which they drop-out of the industry. Recent data suggests that women are 50% more likely than their male peers to leave tech careers. This begs the question: how can we encourage women, especially younger individuals still in the early years of their career, to stick with tech?

While we should encourage interest and passion for the subject in young people, ongoing support is the key to retention. It’s important that women who manage to establish themselves in tech fields and build a successful career be willing to offer their experience as a resource to others. This most often takes the form of mentorship.

Women can achieve just as much as their male peers in tech capacities. I’ve found, however, that men tend to take on mentor-protégé relationships much more readily than women. That’s why we need to make a point of seeking out opportunities to share experience and knowledge with young people in the industry; otherwise, nothing will change.

What Can a Mentor Do?

You can’t underestimate the value that an experienced guide represents for people trying to build a career for themselves. A mentor willing to show one the ropes, help build connections and establish a career path is more valuable than all the training in the world.

There are many ways in which a great mentor can help advance an individual’s career, from promoting one’s accomplishments and boosting her visibility to advising and offering insight. A mentor can help her protege learn new skills and understand new subjects. And of course, you can’t understate the value of simply having a sympathetic and understanding personality who has experienced what one is working through and can offer first-hand experience.

The best mentors don’t simply answer questions; they teach actual strategies. An individual can learn more than you realize simply by working alongside someone who can show them how to navigate a difficult career path.

If you’re genuinely interested in working toward gender parity, you can make a difference if able to fill this role for a young woman. As I mentioned, there are too few women involved in tech as is, so the need of female mentor figures is especially great. I encourage any female professional in IT to get involved and seek out mentorship opportunities. After all, the future of the industry depends on it.

Monica Eaton-Cardone is an entrepreneur and business leader with expertise in technology, e-commerce, risk relativity and payment-processing solutions.

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