There is clear evidence that a gender wage gap exists in the United States. Here are the facts.
- On average in the U.S., a woman with a full time job is paid $39,157 per year, whereas a man is paid $50,033. This means that, overall, women make $0.78 for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
- The wage gap is highest in Louisiana ($0.34 cent wage gap for women). However, Michigan weighs in as the 11th worst state, with women on average earning $0.25 cents less on every dollar than men. The wage gap is the smallest in the District of Columbia ($0.09 cents).
Even athletes are not immune. The total payout for the Women’s World Cup in Soccer this year is $15 million dollars. In contrast, the total payout for the Men’s World Cup last year was $576 million. Likewise, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation, the total prize package for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour was $50 million; the package for the PGA (male) tour was $256 million. A bright spot in sports, however, is professional tennis, where payouts for all major tournaments are now equal for men and women.
So, why is there a pay gap? Some of the difference is related to career choice. The compensation for some traditionally female careers, such as teaching, nursing, and social work, is lower than the compensation for traditionally male careers like computer programming, engineering, and firefighting. Some of the difference is also related to the fact that women are more likely than men to have career interruptions, which impact long-term earnings. But such factors, alone, do not explain all of the gap that exists between men and women. Recently, McMaster University, in a multi-year investigation of its faculty compensation practices, found a 2% pay gap that could not be explained by discipline and rank.
So what can women do to address the pay gap?
- Develop negotiation skills. There is also some evidence that women are less likely than men to negotiate for better compensation and that this contributes to larger pay gaps in the later years of a woman’s career.
- Support and encourage the future generations of young women to make wise choices about college and college majors, both of which can influence future earning potential.
- Be aware of and support state and federal legislative efforts to prevent gender-based discrimination in pay.
The Commission on the Status of Women is investigating the gender pay gap at Wayne State. Stay tuned for the outcomes of our investigations.
Flaherty, C. (2015, April 30). McMaster U addresses gender pay gap with $3500 raises to female faculty members. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/04/30/mcmaster-u-addresses-gender-pay-gap-3500-raises-female-faculty-members
Hill, C. (2015). The simple truth about the gender pay gap (Spring 2015). Retrieved from http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/
National Partnership on Women and Families. (2014, September). America’s women and the wage gap. Retrieved from http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/workplace-fairness/fair-pay/americas-women-and-the-wage-gap.pdf
Patten, E. (2015, April 14). On Equal Pay Day, key facts about the gender pay gap. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/14/on-equal-pay-day-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-gender-pay-gap/
Pilon, M. (2015, June 7). The World Cup pay gap: What the U.S. and Japan didn’t win in the women’s soccer final. Politico. Retrieved from http://www.politico.eu/article/world-cup-women-pay-gap-gender-equality/
The White House Council on Economic Advisers. (2015, April 14). Five facts about the gender pay gap. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/04/14/five-facts-about-gender-pay-gap
Women’s Sports Foundation. (2011). Pay inequity in athletics. Retrieved from http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/home/research/articles-and-reports/equity-issues/pay-inequity
Angela Trepanier, MS, CGC, is the director of the Genetic Counseling Graduate Program and an assistant professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics at Wayne State University and chair of COSW’s Information and Research Committee. A past chair of COSW, she served as a commissioner for four years. Trepanier’s clinical interests include genetic risk assessment and counseling for cancer and other adult onset disorders. Other interests include promoting medical genetics education and evaluating educational approaches, developing public policy related to medical genetics and genetic counseling, and evaluating service delivery models. Trepanier is a past president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors and a founding board member of both the Michigan Association of Genetic Counselors and the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ Genetic Counseling Foundation. She also sits on a number of national advisory committees.
When you think of an engineer, what type of person comes to mind? Chances are, you think of a middle aged white guy. As a high school student, I envisioned either a sea of men in an engineering office, wearing khaki pants and buttoned-up oxford shirts, or men in steel-toed boots, safety glasses, and hard hats, supervising a factory or work site. I’ve been in engineering and technology for almost 15 years now, and I’ll be the first to tell you – that stereotype is pretty accurate in most workplaces.
Let’s start by exploring the current status of girls pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers.
We know from numerous studies that girls and boys perform approximately the same in science testing through about fourth grade.1 Yet by college age, a significant gender gap persists. As shown below, this isn’t just an American problem. This is an international problem.
According to the National Science Foundation, 57% of undergraduates in the U.S. are women.2 However, the representation of women in STEM fields is dismal.3 Women are well-represented in biology (52.9%), and reasonably represented in chemistry, materials science, environmental engineering, geoscience, computer science, computer software, and computer programming (20-33%). Representation in the other engineering fields is bleak:
- Chemical engineering: 13.1% women
- Civil engineering: 10.4% women
- Electrical engineering: 7.7% women
- Mechanical engineering: 6.7% women
This isn’t data from 1949 – it’s from 2009, and these statistics are real. I would be hesitant to believe it myself, if it weren’t for my personal experience. My undergraduate and master’s degrees are in physics. In my subject-specific courses, I was typically the only girl.
America is facing a significant shortage of technical expertise, and the most logical way to fill this gap is to recruit from the untapped potential of women who could excel in STEM positions just like their male counterparts. Increasing diversity in the workforce leads to more creativity in problem solving, and fewer mistakes.4
What can we do as a society, as a major engineering hub city, as a university, and as individuals to recruit more women into STEM? I’ve summarized a number of suggestions from many sources for us to consider:
1. Intervene early
Studies show that girls start to lose interest early. While 15 year-old girls still perform similarly to boys, their attitudes and confidence toward math and science are worse.1 Some studies suggest girls begin to change their viewpoints as early as third or fourth grade. To maintain interest, there must be early and consistent outreach to young girls, not only to maintain their interest and confidence in science and math, but also to provide context about future career options and mentorship through successful STEM role models – all of which are discussed below:
2. Educate young women about STEM jobs and STEM careers
Many females shy away from the STEM fields because of the stereotypes about the types of jobs available, the types of industry available, and the job responsibilities in STEM. As a student, this was by far my biggest roadblock to pursuing STEM. I didn’t want to work in a factory, and I didn’t want to work in a cubicle farm. I didn’t know what other career options even existed.
I wish I could tell my 15-year-old self that STEM goes far beyond the boundaries of a factory or office building, and engineering isn’t just about cars. The basis of STEM is problem solving and experimenting – and it crosses all industries and geographies. (If you are interested in automotive engineering, Detroit is the place to be!) I have friends scattered across the U.S. and the world in industries as diverse as aerospace, defense, medical, manufacturing, food, mining, business, law, agriculture, and education. You can go anywhere and do anything with a STEM degree, but our young people don’t know that. Furthermore, STEM jobs tend to be among the most lucrative around, with big growth and big pay.5 Women in STEM out-earn women in other fields by 33%.6
3. Provide mentorship from successful women in STEM
Mentorship is important for anybody in STEM, and young women lack positive academic female role models. When girls turn on the TV, they are inundated with a culture obsessed with appearance and sex-appeal which doesn’t appear to place value on a woman’s intellectual capabilities. Instead of hearing about strong female leaders in STEM, such as Mary Barra (CEO of GM), Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), or Dr. Wanda Austin (President and CEO of Aerospace Corporation), young girls turn on the TV and see the Kardashians. It’s no wonder girl’s aren’t stampeding to become scientists.
Here at Wayne State, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (COSW) has partnered with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) to provide a speed mentoring program for female engineering students, addressing points two and three. This year, 22 female engineering students met with 21 women from diverse engineering professions – more than half were WSU alumnae! – for an evening of mentoring and career discussions. Students and mentors discussed how to handle the challenges of being a female in a male-dominated profession, what types of careers are available, and even basic points, such as how to get a co-op job or handle making mistakes in the workplace. We found that providing this network not only benefited our engineering students, but also helped our mentors to develop a network of women across Detroit that they can look to for support.
4. Educate students and staff about implicit (and explicit) bias in STEM
A 2012 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences article found that experienced science faculty at research universities were more likely to hire a male applicant over a female when all qualifications were equal except the applicant’s name. This bias was present in both male and female faculty.7 Does that sound absurd? It gets worse.
In 2015, a pair of researchers submitted a manuscript to PLoS-ONE which discussed gender differences in postdoctoral academic positions. Their paper was initially rejected, in part because the female co-authors had not included a male author on the manuscript, which, ironically, was based on gender bias.8 While this example is extreme, it shows that there are still cases of blatant bias that women must occasionally contend with as well.
With treatment like this, it’s no wonder that women sometimes undervalue or underestimate themselves. They grow up in a world that doesn’t expect them to achieve as much as men. How can this issue be addressed? In a study by Spencer et al, two groups of college students were given identical tests.9 In one group, students were told before the test that men typically out-perform the women. Not surprisingly, in that group, the men did out-perform the women. However, in the second group, students were told there wasn’t a gender difference in performance. In this group, scores were almost equal. Thus, if we as educators, parents, and mentors regularly emphasize to students (both male and female) that women are just as capable as men, we can begin to change that gender bias. If we remember that we, ourselves, might be inadvertently favoring males, we can be more mindful when admitting students, grading exams, or hiring assistants.
5. Help girls develop spatial skills
Boys consistently out-perform girls in spatial skills, such as mental rotation. However, this is a skill that can be quickly learned and improved through practice and training. Playing with blocks and other building toys and practicing drawing from different perspectives helps girls bridge the gap. Dr. Sheryl Sorby has performed extensive research to develop curriculum to help freshmen-level students improve their spatial performance.10
6. Develop a culture to recruit female students
According to a report by the American Association of University Women2, relatively simple changes to the recruitment process can impact girls’ intention to pursue STEM. One simple change is to actively recruit female students, rather than passively waiting for females to apply. Just knowing that they are valued and have the backing of a college, department, program, or faculty member behind them can inspire the confidence young women need to pursue a technical degree. Some departments and programs have experience requirements which a girl may not have had an opportunity or courage to pursue in high school. Thus, the female student may be discouraged from applying to the specific program because she doesn’t have that experience, even though she is more than capable of catching up to those with prior experience. Changing those requirements to make them more inclusive or making the required experience part of the first-year curriculum2 allows ladies to enter the program at the same level as their male peers and gives them an early opportunity to do career-related work early on in their education.
7. Develop a culture to retain female students
Studies have shown that women retain interest in technical subjects better if they have an understanding of the broad applications of the science or technology early on in the learning process.11 First year or introductory-level courses that talk about what can be done with the subject matter can help female students understand the importance of difficult concepts before or while they learn the technical aspects.
Developing a strong support network for women within the college, department, and university is essential as well. This includes employing quality female STEM faculty, who can also serve as mentors from point three; providing opportunities for female-advocacy clubs and student organizations, such as SWE; and having university-wide recognition of women and women’s’ issues. At Wayne State, this need is met, in part, through COSW, which provides a diverse range of outreach programs across a range of subjects important to women.
I hope this post has given you some food for thought and got you thinking about how to bring more women into STEM fields. Think of the women in your life: your students, your daughters, your sisters, and your friends. Who can you offer encouragement and empowerment to in their pursuit of a STEM career?
- It’s time to unleash girls’ potential in STEM. (2015). Retrieved from http://noceilings.org/stem/
- How many undergraduate students enroll in U.S. institutions? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/sei/edTool/data/college-02.html
- Hill, C. (n.d.). Why so few? Women in science, technology, enginering, and math (short) [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.aauw.org/resource/why-so-few-women-in-science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics-owerpoint-presentation-short/
- Page, S.E. (2007). The difference: How the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools, and societies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
- Vilorio, D. (2014, Spring). STEM 101: Intro to Tomorrow’s Jobs. Occupational Outlook Quarterly. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/spring/art01.pdf
- Women in STEM. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/women
- Moss-Racusin, C.A., Dovidio, J.F., Brescoli, V.L., Graham, M.J., & Handelsman, J. (2012). Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109 (41), 16474-16479. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474
- Woolston, C. (2015, May 5). Sexist review causes Twitter storm: Disparaging comments to female authors prompt more calls for double-blind refereeing. Nature, 521 (7549). Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/news/sexist-review-causes-twitter-storm-1.17457
- Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M., & Quinn, D. M. (1999). Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35(1), 13. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103198913737
- Sorby, S.A. (2009, February.) Educational research in developing 3-D spatial skills for engineering students. International Journal of Science Education, 31( 3), 459-480. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09500690802595839?journalCode=tsed20
- Higher Education Research Institute, 2007, Survey of the American freshman: Special tabulations (Los Angeles, CA), cited in National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2009, Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering: 2009 (NSF 09-305) (Arlington, VA), Table B-8.
Rachel Kast Ph.D. is a research assistant professor in the Departments of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering and a commissioner on the WSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women. She is the chapter advisor to the WSU section of the Society of Women Engineers and is active in STEM outreach with students of all ages. To learn more about STEM, STEM careers, and Dr. Kast’s outreach, visit her website www.STEMpowerment.com.
Older adults are a vital part of our society. Since 1963, communities across the country have shown their gratitude by observing Older Americans Month each May. “Get into the Act,” the theme of this year’s celebration, not only reflects on the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act but also focuses on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others.
According to the Administration for Community Living, when Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. By the year 2020, more than 55 million U.S. adults will be over the age of 65.
Recently, I came across a very interesting employment statistic: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that, today, one in every five American workers is over 65. A report by the Pew Research Center indicates the number of older Americans in the workforce will continue to increase: “[b]y 2022, the [BLS] projects that 31.9% of those ages 65 to74 will still be working” (Drake, 2014, para. 1). This is very relevant because I definitely consider myself a member of the older American community and plan on being a productive, healthy employee for a number of years.
Let me provide a little background about my job. As an archivist and librarian at Wayne State University’s Walter P. Reuther Library, which is home to the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, I work with materials that document the history of the American labor movement, specifically the United Farm Workers Union. I have been managing this collection among my other duties for almost 30 years. I feel it is necessary to describe my job duties here because, at times, they are more physical than mental. Generally, I do not spend a large part of my day at a computer; rather, I lift boxes, shelve materials, and pack or unpack shipments of records, all of which are all part of collection management. However, there are days when I can barely push myself away from my computer (like right now), so I would like to share some general observations about what growing older gracefully in the workplace means to me.
For us older Americans, growing older in the workplace requires having an overall sense of physical wellness and safety, coupled with the desire to build our acumen by actively participating in workplace skills development and relishing the interaction with co-workers. These days, that instruction may often be provided by colleagues who are much younger than we are. The willingness to work at both the physical and mental aspects of our work life—one of many strategies that help us age gracefully —will lead to gracefulness in our work life.
- Feeling well: My personal interests in exercise and nutrition are currently paying off. I have experienced very few illnesses or injuries in my more than 30 years at WSU in large part due to my physical activity and healthier eating habits. (Lucky me; I love to read studies and learn more about nutrition.) I encourage older adults to get started with an exercise regimen because physical activity provides so many benefits, from sleeping well to operating at high energy levels. Even a few simple episodes of stair climbing can provide enough movement to meet daily goals. WSU’s fitness center offers the perfect venue for walking, biking, and weight lifting, and I take advantage of all of them!
- Feeling safe: An aspect that many don’t think about, however, is that there are thousands who are injured on the job every day in the U.S. Although many might believe otherwise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that workers who are older actually tend to experience fewer workplace injuries than their younger colleagues. Safety is also about peace of mind when moving about in your work environment — from parking your car to strolling about campus and visiting restaurants and shops in our university community. Safety in the workplace is our personal responsibility as well as that of our employers, and there are several things we can do to provide an age-friendly workplace.
- Engaging with younger colleagues: There is much to be grateful for about working in a diverse workplace in terms of age. My growth as a human being is exponential because of my daily interactions with my younger co-workers. They often grasp things more readily than I do. Their reasoning about a broad range of issues is distinctive and enlightening, and they are sometimes a reflection of my younger self. Such engagement promotes intergenerational learning, or opportunities for people of all ages to learn with and from each other.
In two separate articles, Kathryn Swezy, a marketing and communication consultant, and reporter John Gallagher share suggestions for aging gracefully in the workplace. Ultimately, for me, aging gracefully in the workplace is a natural extension of aging gracefully in all areas of my life. I enjoy the hours I spend exercising my body through physical fitness or other leisure activities as much as I do those that I spend exercising my mind because my physical and mental health are both important. I would not trade the experiences that allow me to improve my physical strength for those workplace episodes that provide me with the chance to expand my mental capabilities. My 24-hour cycle of continued human development needs those workday hours as much as home life hours to establish a daily plan of action for a rich and rewarding life.
Drake, B. (2014, January 7). Number of older Americans in the workforce is on the rise. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/07/number-of-older-americans-in-the-workforce-is-on-the-rise/
Kathleen (Kathy) Emery Schmeling is a 35-year WSU employee and a volunteer on COSW’s Health and Wellness Committee. A senior processing archivist at the Walter P. Reuther Library, she has also served as associate director and interim director for brief stints during her 25-year career as a librarian. Initially hired as full-time clerical support, she took evening classes at WSU and earned three degrees: a Masters in Library and Information Science and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history.
by Kimberly Morgan
Our New Commissioner Drive has started; we are seeking new members for the 2015-2016 year. I know all of you are busy and may not know how you are going to get everything done, but I would like to encourage you to carve out some time for our organization. Visit our website to learn more about how to become a member/commissioner.
Now, in the late night talk show tradition, I would like to give you the top five reasons to join COSW.
Number 5: This month is Women’s History Month. What a perfect time to join an organization that works toward the betterment of women across Wayne State’s campus and beyond.
Number 4: Women’s issues are relevant and undeniable. Although many great strides have been made in regard to women’s issues through the decades, there is still so far to go. Women still make 78 cents for every dollar that men make, female representation on ad hoc committees, administration and faculty is still much lower than it should be, and abuses to women in the home and in human trafficking are alarming at best.
Number 3: You would be joining a wonderful group of leaders. Consider the amazing women and men who are commissioners now and those who have served in the past. Our own Provost Winters has served on the Commission and was the chair of the Career Development committee. We have women and men who serve from all constituencies of Wayne State, from alumni to administration to students to staff to faculty – and all are dedicated to women’s issues at Wayne.
Number 2: The COSW offers numerous programs throughout the year to raise awareness about women’s issues as well as to give women the tools they need to be successful in their endeavors. Those programs include mentoring and health workshops, assault awareness events, and documentary screenings. Our upcoming events include:
- “The Invisible War” – documentary screening – 3/30/15 – 5:30-7:30pm – WSU Student Center Building, room 285. This documentary explores the epidemic of rape in the military.
- Rise Above: A Domestic Violence Awareness Event – 4/6/15 – 6:00-8:00pm – WSU Student Center Building Ballroom. This is a domestic violence awareness event done in collaboration with the Not for Sale Campaign, a student organization of Wayne State.
- Take Back the Night – a sexual violence awareness event – 4/8/15 – 5:30-9:00pm – WSU Student Center Building Ballroom. This event is done in collaboration with First Step. Speakers include Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Joanne Smith-Darden, assistant professor in the School of Social Work.
We also have other programming underway that will address the pay gap and how to overcome it, as well as how to be both a professional and a parent.
And the number 1 reason to join the COSW is…
You can make a difference in the lives of women at Wayne State. I have personally witnessed the positive effect our programs have had on women in the Wayne State community. It is awe inspiring. Not only our programs, but also the commission itself gives women the opportunity to be heard at Wayne. Our present research on the pay gap at our institution has been reviewed by both the president and the provost of the university, and they are looking forward to seeing the results of our further investigations.
Don’t forget to visit our website to find out how to become a volunteer or a commissioner. I look forward to working with you in the future to advance the cause of women.
For more information or to learn more about COSW, please visit http://cosw.wayne.edu.
Kim Morgan is the chair of the WSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women. A member of the Commission’s PR & Marketing committee, she has worked with the COSW for almost three years. Morgan is also an advisor in the Math Department and a mathematics educator with more than 25 years of experience in teaching and tutoring. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Nannette McCleary, MA, LPC
“What I need is someone who will make me do what I can.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The mentors in my life inspired me to fulfill my highest potential.” — Lailah Gifty Akita
“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” — Oprah Winfrey
“Brands must empower their community to be change agents in their own right. To that end, they need to take on a mentoring role. This means the brand provides the tools, techniques and strategies for their customers to become more effective marketers in achieving their own goals.” — Simon Mainwaring
“How you coach them is how they’re going to play.” — Stefan Fatsis, A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL
Mentoring has a mystique. Google the term and you will get over six million hits. Among those results, there are several websites dedicated to defining and discussing all aspects of this complex activity. That is because when asked, nearly everyone recognizes the importance of having a mentor. Yet it seems only the most successful people acknowledge the role mentoring played in their achievements. This only demonstrates there is a definite gap in recognizing and utilizing mentors in career development.
As part of its two-year strategic plan, the Commission on the Status of Women (COSW) has identified the goal of expanding mentoring on WSU’s campus as one of its initiatives. This past September, the COSW Career Development Committee (CDC) sponsored “Build Your Championship Career Team” to explore the team concept in mentoring as a “kickoff” to this initiative. More than 40 staff, faculty, administrators, and students participated in an interactive discussion facilitated by COSW Commissioner and CDC Chair, Diane Fears, J.D., who serves as Director of Career Services for the WSU Law School. The program was so well received that, in December, Diane renewed this program as a webinar for alumni, sponsored by the Alumni Association.
Diane started the program with statistics from a LinkedIn survey that suggested one out five women in the U.S. never had a mentor. Small group interaction then offered participants the opportunity to discuss and share strategies for overcoming barriers to finding mentors. Attendees also enjoyed sports analogies in relation to what it takes to build a winning team that works together. The program was a great success, with 89% of attendees providing feedback that indicated the desire for more time and attention to this subject.
Like other participants, I was dismayed with the LinkedIn results. In a survey of 1,000 women at the 2011 Pennsylvania Conference for Women, the largest one-day women’s conference promoting personal and professional development, 82% agreed that mentoring was important, yet, 67% of women reported never being asked, and 52% stated that they hadn’t “encountered anyone appropriate.”1
Why? Are women truly mentoring disadvantaged?
A recent article by Forbes suggests fear of rejection, competition, perceived time commitment, and lack of subject matter expertise are the most common reasons women do not engage in mentoring.2 Additional research by Neal, Boatman, and Miller, however, challenges that women are more often eager to mentor one another if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, only 56% of organizations offer formal mentoring programs, many of which lack effective training.3 While research supports a strong argument for organizations to invest in organized, formal programs, the reality is that, for many, there is no assurance that such opportunities will be forthcoming.4
The good news is this barrier is not impossible to defy. In fact, it is rather easy to circumvent. Simply find your own mentors. Acknowledging that mentoring is important to everyone’s career, then obtaining mentors is essential to personal career development. February is International Expect Success Month, Plant the Seeds of Greatness Month, and the month during which we celebrate love. In honor of these observances, I challenge each and every person to use this opportunity to show your career some love; take charge of your career and sow the seeds of success by seeking out mentors and advisors who can help you achieve maximum career growth.
I think there is often a mythical misperception that we have to wait to be “discovered” by that “magical” entity that will “make” our careers. That somehow it isn’t mentoring if the “right” expert doesn’t formally “take us under his or her wing.” That was what was great about the “Build Your Championship Career Team” program. Building a championship team of mentors means recognizing that mentoring happens all around us. It is not just one person that helps us grow and develop, but several key individuals, both formally and informally and throughout our lives, that impact our success.5 Taking charge, then, requires creating and capitalizing on the opportunities that are presented to us. While there are many opinions on how to define entrepreneur, I will share the one I believe represents not only this attitude, but the mindset needed to be successful in today’s economy. Entrepreneurism is the process through which people pursue opportunity, use resources, and initiate change to create value.
As the CEO of your career, the first thing you will need to do is to reflect on your professional status and personal satisfaction. Where are you and where do you want to be? Are you enjoying your career? Along with that personal assessment, you will also explore your feasible options as they relate to the world of work. Between these two spheres, your decisions will then have to be implemented with SMART goals. Your action plan will likely include a variety of educational and experiential strategies as well as the resources you will use to achieve your goals. Of course the most powerful resource is people. This is where identifying mentors fits into your career plan. There is a wealth of information and advice online, but here are some considerations to remember as you recruit your team:
Great teams work together toward a common goal.
Remember, you are the person in charge of your board of directors. You have a unique brand that is certainly promotable. You alone are responsible for selecting mentors that have your best interests in mind. You need commitment, clear communication, and constructive coaching to help push you where you want to go. To do this, your goals and personal motivation to achieve those objectives must balance with the time and expertise of your selected mentors.6
Great mentors are available, prepared, empathetic, compatible, flexible, encouraging, intimate, introspective, vulnerable, credible, current, altruistic, analytical and curious, just to name a few characteristics. 7 The point is that you want to develop mutual, cohesive relationships where your mentors share similar values, interests and philosophy. Take the time to carefully consider the qualities you need in your mentors. At a minimum, you should ask the following questions:
- Does the person have the time and energy to devote to the mentoring relationship?
- What current and relevant knowledge, expertise, and/or skills does the person offer?
- Is the person a good listener, open-minded, and willing to share failures as well as successes?
Identify the roles your team will play.
Multiple mentors offer the opportunity to engage in several supportive relationships. While subject matter experts and influencers are important for their knowledge and sponsorship, recognize that pragmatists and accountability partners can help you weigh your options. Your role models and cheerleaders can provide inspiration and positive support. What about identifying a “Mr. Miyagi” who challenges you or a “Mary Poppins” who can facilitate your creativity? 5 Keep in mind, not all mentors are long-term relationships. Depending on the level of connection or impact, mentoring experiences can be one-time informational conversations, six-month skill development sessions, or year-long advocacy consultations.8 The more you work with your mentors to set specific goals and parameters, the more successful your relationships are likely to be.
If nothing else, remember that statistically, the majority of women are just waiting for you to step-up. You can start by asking about programs. There are several opportunities at Wayne State University. For example, students might want to check out advising within their academic programs, Student Organizations with faculty advisors, the Learning Communities, which include peer mentoring, or Career Services for more career planning resources. Employees, on the other hand, can check with their departments, unions, Human Resources, Employee Assistance services, Office of the Provost, or other academic programs and committees. Whether formal or informal, there is a considerable effort on campus to support everyone’s success. There are opportunities outside the university as well. Independently, you could also consider using social media to develop online/virtual relationships or invest in consultation, especially as it relates to professional development or certification/licensure.
Mentoring is a critical component to career success. Women especially need to take advantage of mentoring opportunities to advance themselves personally and professionally. Why not start now? Celebrate mentoring by acknowledging those important people who have contributed to your success thus far. Then create a “pitch” that you can use to ask someone to mentor you. And as always, remember to set clear goals, learn best practices, and use your resources to develop these valuable relationships.
1Williams, N. (2011, October 25). Infographic: Women and mentoring in the U.S. Retrieved from http://blog.linkedin.com/2011/10/25/mentoring-women/
2Drexler, P. (2014, March 4). Can women succeed without a mentor? Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/peggydrexler/2014/03/04/can-women-succeed-without-a-mentor/
3Neal, S., Boatman, J., & Miller L. (n.d.). Women as mentors: Does she or doesn’t she? A global study of businesswomen and mentoring. Retrieved from http://www.ddiworld.com/DDIWorld/media/trend-research/womenasmentors_rr_ddi.pdf?ext=.pdf
4Egan, T. M. & Rosser, M. (2004). Do formal mentoring programs matter?: A longitudinal randomized experimental study of women healthcare workers. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED492153.pdf
5Dyer, D. (2014, June 13). Build a championship team for your career. Retrieved from http://www.govloop.com/community/blog/build-a-championship-team-for-your-career/
6Johnson, W. (2011, October 25). Get the mentoring equation right. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/10/get-the-mentoring-equation-rig/
7Abbajay, M. (n.d.). The working life: The importance of workplace mentors. Retrieved from http://www.careerstonegroup.com/z-media/wp-mentoring.pdf
8Sofio, F. (2013, June 18). Achieve more through mentoring. Retrieved from http://careergirlnetwork.com/ferne-sofio-june-21/
Nannette McCleary is a Licensed Professional Counselor with 18 years experience in career planning and development. A university counselor in the Career Services office at WSU, she coordinates career planning and development programs. Nannette is secretary for the WSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women and is an active member of its Career Development Committee. She can be contacted at email@example.com.