By: MacKenzie Moore, Associate, Million Women Mentors®
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to
reveal to them their own.” – B. Disraeli
January is National Mentoring Month and across the nation, corporations, non-profit organizations and states are celebrating the impact of mentoring. But how much can a mentor help protégés and why will it be integral to the advancement of science, technology, engineering and mathematics?
The Benefits of Mentoring
Most Fortune 500 companies, seventy-one percent, to be exact, look to mentorship programs to solve this problem (1) and I wonder why…
In 2006, Gartner studied the financial impacts of a mentoring program in Sun Microsystems (owned by Oracle). Of the 1,000 Sun Microsystems employees mentored, 25% had a salary grade change (compared with 5% of their non-mentored co-workers), 72% of mentees were retained (compared with 49% of employees who were not mentored), and the mentored employees were promoted five times- more often than those not in the program. The same study also found mentors received promotions six times more often than their peers. The retention rate of the leaders who mentored was also 20% higher than the retention rate of those who did not participate in the program (2).
Some people view mentoring as a solely philanthropic venture – an activity they would partake in for the benefit of their mentee but not themselves. As the numbers above prove, this is simply not the case. Mentoring is often as valuable, if not more, to the mentor as it is to the mentee. Mentors often say they develop a personal and effective leadership style, gain an understanding of technology, appeal to younger generations, and the dynamic in lower levels of the organization (2). Mentees learn valuable career lessons, which can facilitate transitions and increase over all success (among the many skills based and individualized lessons learned). Essentially, mentoring turns a typical co-worker relationship into a mutual and meaningful, relationship for both parties.
There is one more group involved in the mentor-mentee relationship: the company. As stated above, 71% of Fortune 500 companies have already established mentoring programs (1). These are multi-billion dollar companies. They are financially incentivized and almost exclusively invest their money in programs with a strong return on investment. Why do they choose mentoring programs? First of all, every benefit to the mentors and mentees listed above also benefits the companies. In addition, Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania found mentoring relationships positively impact productivity, engagement, and retention (2). They also found even when a mentee transitions jobs, the company and mentor do not necessarily lose their investment in it’s human capital. Want to expand your company? Mentor. Want to bring in more revenue? Mentor. Want your employees to feel dedication and loyalty? Mentor. It fits their bottom line and is a proven benefit to the company.
A Case Study: Mentoring’s Effect on the STEM Talent Pipeline
Looking at the talent shortage in the United States can be overwhelming, given how broad a topic it is. This talent can range from English teachers and sales personnel to trained fire fighters, business professionals, and everything in between. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the STEM talent shortage. Finding effective and efficient solutions requires narrowing the focus. Take the STEM talent pipeline as a case study – you will find the competition for recruiting the best STEM talent is even fiercer. In 2009, STEM jobs accounted for 5.3% of the total workforce, but by the time 2018 rolls around, more than 70% of all jobs will require STEM skills (3). In the words of my fourth grade mentee, “YOWZA!”
But why? Why is STEM so important? Well, to start with, technological innovation accounts for more than one third of recent growth in U.S. GDP and more than two thirds of investment in corporate capital (4). It’s everything from computer science to engineering, doctors to astrophysicists. It drives the economy and gives the United States an edge in international competition. For this reason, key leaders like President Obama, U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, and the U.S. Department of Commerce are getting involved.
The latest hot topic in the discussion of the STEM talent pipeline has been the alarming and universal lack of women and minorities in these jobs. In 2009, only 2.5 million of the 9.7 million total college-educated STEM workers were female (3). Read more on the subject and you will quickly discover what a depressing topic women in STEM can be. Reports of high concentrations of rape and sexual assault, of women being repeatedly told they will never find a husband if they study STEM, or simply pushed out of their field. The gender gap in STEM disciplines “leaves an untapped opportunity to expand STEM employment in the United States” and is yet another factor in maintaining a competitive nation (3).
The U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration reports this gender gap is due to a lack of role models, gender stereotyping, and a lack of family friendly dynamics in STEM fields (3). Girls start feeling pushed out of STEM by boys and pulled out by girlfriends starting as early as middle school. By the time young women graduate high school, only 15% are interested in pursuing college majors or careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics according to MyCollegeOptions reports, in partnership with Million Women Mentors®. Mentorship allows these girls and young women to understand the life of a STEM worker and envision themselves in this role. In order to curb the shortage of STEM workers in the future, increased interest and participation of women in STEM will have to be an imperative of the nation and key aspect of the solution.
- Hyde, Janet S., Sarah M. Lindburg, Marcia C. Linn, Amy B. Ellis, and Caroline C. Williams. “Gender Similarities Characterize Math Performance.” Science Magazine5888 (2008): 494-95. Web.
- “Workplace Loyalties Change but the Value of Mentoring Doesn’t.” Knowledge @ Wharton. Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, 16 May 2007. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.
- “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation.” Economics and Statistics Administration. U.S Department of Commerce, Aug. 2011. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.
- “Technological Innovation and Economic Performance.” Princeton University Press. Ed. Benn Steil, David G. Victor, and Richard R. Nelson. Princeton University Press, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.
- Brack, Jessica. “Maximizing Millennials in the Workplace.” Kenan-Flager Business School. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
- Meister, Jeanne C., and Karie Willyerd. “Mentoring Millennials.” Harvard Business Review. N.p., May 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
- “2013 Talent Shortage Survey United States.” Manpower Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
- Casey, Bob. “STEM Education: Preparing for the Jobs of the Future.” S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. N.p., Apr. 2012. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.
- “Women in STEM: Realizing the Potential.” Million Women Mentors. STEMconnector/Tata Consultancy Services, Mar. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.
- “Best Practices: Mentoring.” United States Office of Personnel Management. N.p., Sept. 2008. Web. 26 Sept. 2014.