Thoughts on Mentoring Women in Technology, Part One


Last year I received this eMail:

Sus,  I just had someone ask me today, “So, what’s your next step in who you are becoming?” Blogging about what I’m learning might possibly be in my near future — but I’m intimidated. What if I don’t really have much to say? Couldn’t someone else say it better? Does God really want me to speak up/out? All these questions barrage my mind as I think about taking next steps… So,  I would love a mentor — short term and long term. This has been a heart cry of mine for awhile. What kind of info do you need from me to get that ball rolling?

Julie was writing because I had a little bit of mentoring set up for CSU2011. I’ve tried some different ideas on mentoring women in technology since then and would like to see this grow in Campus Crusade for Christ.

Yesterday, I read two excellent articles and wrote a summary from each one. I recommend reading the articles, and not just my summaries, if you have time. After that, I’d like to hear your thoughts on how to effectively mentor women in technology. (These articles can also apply to men and also for mentoring  in areas other than in technology.)

“Wo-mentoring”

In Women’s Ways of Mentoring, the author,  Cheryl Dahle, points out:

Consider the problem. The way mentoring used to work, a senior male executive would annoint a younger version of himself as his protege. The operative assumption: Mentoring was all about chemistry between two people who had a lot in common. It was also about connections… Women have poured into the new world of work, and they’ve found they aren’t welcome in the old boys’ club of mentoring. They can’t rely on men to pick female proteges. They can’t depend on being able to socialize in the old style – on the golf course or over a cigar – to form personal bonds. So women have changed the rules. They’ve invented formal practices where none existed before, making mentoring more organized and focused.

“Wo-mentoring” is different from traditional mentoring based on common ties; women will mentor with opposites and with peers. Other characteristics of “wo-mentoring” are:

  • focuses on personal growth and development
  • everyone can learn from anyone, not just younger staff learning from older staff or “higher-ups”
  • mentees can learn in groups and/or from several individual mentors, instead of just one-to-one
  • proteges can pick their mentors

Mentoring Tips

Ekaterina Walter of the Huffington Post listed advice for mentoring in The Role of Mentorship for Women in Technology.  Here’s many of them (mostly verbatim):

  • It’s totally acceptable to have a mutual benefit in a mentoring relationship that would help motivate both parties. You can trade your services or help each other in different ways.
  • Mentees have to know what they want — that’s half the battle.
  • Don’t make gender an issue, don’t take it personally. People hang out in familiar circles because of their common interests, that’s just how networks work.
  • Ageism is often an issue professionally. So if you are a young woman, you can overcome it by sounding confident, being firm, looking others straight in the eye, and firmly shaking hands.

(I’ll include her specific description of  what mentors do in the next post in this series.)

Have you been mentoring someone in technology? What do you think would work within Campus Crusade to see more women empowered with technology tools and skills that would help her in her ministry? Would you like to be a mentor?

Recommended:

  • Read these articles.
  • Read Part Two for specific tips on mentoring.

9 thoughts on “Thoughts on Mentoring Women in Technology, Part One

  1. I’ve had the opportunity to offer technology mentoring to some 20 women (and some men) who are part of our region headquarters team this past year (individually and in groups). Most of these are fellow “digital Immigrants” that I happen to be a few steps ahead of. I hope to continue and expand this in the coming year. Helping them define their areas of greatest need has been a challenge – some have had trouble knowing where to start. Few of these are ongoing – more on the order of dealing with a specific issue they are having trouble with. I like the idea of groups mentoring each other. There’s a lot out there to cover and no one person can master it all!

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    1. Hi, Karen,

      Thanks for all you’re doing in Hungary! I appreciate YOU!

      I agree that identifying needs may be the number one hurdle. People may not be aware:
      1) of tech solutions to do their work more effectively
      2) of how to reach more people with tech tools
      3) of more features on the technology they do know that would be helpful
      4) of how to use their new device and its features
      5) more

      Therefore, a “mentee” may not even know the right question to ask. I usually like to find out what they do and how they do it and why before we even get started learning something.

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  2. I do a lot of mentoring of older women on technology as part of my job. I’ve found it’s often even more effective if I can help support a woman of their age-group in doing the mentoring herself as well. When an older person is being taught by a younger person, I’ve often heard them comment, “Well, I’m not as young as you so I just don’t know how to do that/I’m not as good at that/whatever.” They sort of excuse themselves from the learning process that way. However, when they see “one of their own” up there teaching, it helps them realize that they really CAN do this. I do also agree with all of your comments, of course. I simply like to try to use every avenue open to me in mentoring people in technology.

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    1. Sandy, it’s great to meet you and to learn about your blog.

      That’s a very good observation. I’m thinking of expanding our mentoring, so your comment is timely. I’ll certainly keep this “age excuse” in mind when we start growing in this area.

      I’m on the older end of the spectrum, so any of you grandmotherly types out there… you can have an eMinistry, too. We’d love to help you with the tools you need for your heart-calling!

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