How Can Mentorship Even the Playing Field?

Picture yourself standing in front of a bridge. You, the mentee, are trying to cross that bridge, while your mentor, the engineer, is designing and constructing a myriad of bridges to accommodate you under different conditions. At times, your mentor will construct a solid, sturdy, and wide bridge to help you move towards new experiences, but at other times, your mentor will encourage you to use a narrow suspension bridge, and take that risk to achieve a certain goal. In this manner, your mentor plays the role of a guide that supports you along your life journey of crossing bridges, sometimes helping you construct bridges, and sometimes encouraging you to use less secure bridges, to cross uncharted territory and reap countless benefits. Eventually, with the knowledge and wisdom imparted on you by your mentor, you begin to develop the necessary skills that allow you to build your own bridges and forge out on your own unique path.

Even at the most basic level, mentorship brings about a myriad of benefits that can help to level the playing field and ameliorate the gap in equal opportunities and fairness in the workplace. Having someone you deeply admire set aside specific time to meet and share their career journey, while simultaneously encouraging you and giving you salient feedback and advice can be a powerful tool for both personal and professional growth. Under proper guidance from mentors, mentees can grow their confidence and gain the necessary soft and hard skills to land new jobs, a promotion, and even achieve a better work-life balance. In fact, in a five year study of over 1000 employees, 25% of employees who enrolled themselves into a mentoring program had a salary-grade change, as compared to only 5% of workers who did not participate. This means that employees with mentors were 5 times more likely to be promoted than those without. In this same study, it was also found that mentors themselves were 6 times more likely to be promoted. Retention rates were also higher for both mentees (22% more) and mentors (20% more) as compared to employers who did not participate in a mentoring program. As can be seen from these statistics, mentorship is mutually beneficial and brings about imperative benefits for both mentors and mentees.

In particular, mentorship can play a huge role in leveling the playing field in STEM. Due to the rapid rise in demand for workers in the STEM field, millions of STEM jobs are projected to go unfilled in the near future. In fact, it's estimated that 3.5 million jobs will need to be filled by 2025. Yet, while the industry continues to grow, it continues to suffer from a jarring diversity gap. As of 2019, women only represent 27% of the STEM workforce. It gets even worse when you take into account the lack of minority representation, as Blacks and Hispanics combined only represent 16% of the STEM workforce.

So, how can we close the diversity gap and fill the talent pipeline? What can we do to encourage a more balanced and equitable representation in STEM? This is where mentorship plays a vital role. For example, Bloomberg recently launched the Bloomberg Black in Tech Mentorship Program in 2021, with 15 pairs of mentors/mentees. The goals of this tailored mentorship program were to provide members of the Bloomberg Black in Tech (BBIT) group from around the globe with the opportunity to broaden their networks, increase their visibility, retain and engage talent, foster career development (for both mentors and mentees), and continue creating an inclusive and diverse culture within Engineering. The program was largely successful, with mentees stating that discussions with mentors helped them grow and be more proactive about establishing, tracking, and assessing their career and life goals. Similarly, mentors noted how becoming a mentor helped them to ensure they were actively monitoring and guiding their career, and taking concrete steps towards ascertaining their goals. Many mentors also noted how the mentorship program made them more aware of creating an inclusive environment where people from different backgrounds can thrive.

Through mentorship, mentees can gain invaluable career advice, gain confidence, set and take tangible steps towards achieving their goals, and expand their networks. Mentorship doesn’t just benefit mentees: mentors can also grow professionally and personally, and ensure that they are actively monitoring and guiding their own careers. In this way, mentorship plays an imperative role in helping to close the gap in diversity and inclusion in many industries, and can help level the playing field for all. Whether you are considering becoming a mentee or a mentor, we strongly encourage you to sign up as a mentor and/or mentee on LevelUp to grow in your personal and professional development.

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