All of this month, we have been celebrating "Women MAKING history in voice tech." These are women working across disciplines within the voice technology community who we believe help build this innovative industry and push for it to be more diverse and inclusive.
According to UNESCO's global statistics, only 29.3% of the researchers working in science are women. In the U.S., women fare a bit better - "Women in 2019 also made up nearly half of those in all math (47%) and life and physical science (45%) occupations."
But that isn't enough. The U.S. Census Report also explains that women aren't making gains in computer or engineering occupations, which comprise 80% of the STEM workforce.
It goes on to say, "women represented only about a quarter of computer workers and 15% of those in engineering occupations. They were, however, a majority of the nation's social scientists. But social science accounted for only 3% of STEM occupations.
Women working in engineering occupations increased from 3% in 1970 to 15% in 2019. And while the percentage of women in computer occupations is higher than in 1970, it actually decreased between 1990 and 2019."
So, to decrease this massive gender gap, what do we do? How do we attract and retain more talented young women into STEM? One of those ways is through mentoring, which is near and dear to our Founder, Dr. Rupal Patel.
Dr. Patel often *speaks to young scientists and entrepreneurs, focusing mainly on young women in STEM. Over her long career as a scientist, she has personally mentored many students and young clinicians who are just beginning their careers. Whether it is at a conference, a small talk at a university, or one-on-one, mentoring is a passion for Rupal.
She recently participated as a guest mentor in the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) Apprenticeship Program, speaking to a group of young women between 14-18-years old. The purpose of the program is to address the gender gap in science by focusing on female high school students with a curiosity for STEM-related topics. These young women who apply must show an interest in how science and technology are transforming the world and are considering what opportunities are available to the next generation of leaders. By leveraging female mentors' experiences from various STEM industries, the program attendees gain invaluable insight to help nurture their interests in STEM fields and potentially help reduce the gap.
If you have been thinking about mentoring, but aren't quite sure how to do it, here are some suggestions. Consider reaching out to your alma mater, local schools, or organizations that align with your mentoring goals, i.e., mentoring a young woman in science or entrepreneurship.
Rupal has provided some of her best advice, gained from her many mentoring opportunities, for those just starting out as a mentor:
FINDING A MENTEE/BECOMING A MENTOR
Mentoring happens naturally and organically. It isn't the same process as searching for an intern or employee, don't approach it as such. The process is more intuitive — you will see potential in someone, and you will want to help them succeed.
Find alignment - you'll have more fun, and you'll be able to contribute greater if you have alignment between their interests and goals and your interests and background.
Be realistic. Only take on mentees if you have time - you can't be there for everyone. But if you commit, make sure you follow through and make yourself accessible.
HOW TO MENTOR
Be a sounding board - we don't need clones. Mentoring is about helping and nurturing through supportive advice, not telling someone how to do something to be just like someone else.
Be you - often, women will feel that they can only portray their professional self; their personal life needs to be hidden. Your mentee doesn't need to know details about your personal life. However, understanding what real balance looks like and the varied roles you play in your life can be a vital lesson.
IT DOESN'T ALWAYS GO AS PLANNED
Sometimes it doesn't work out, and even the best intentions may not land well. Be open and transparent but don't force it. You aren't obligated to be a mentor, nor are they to being your mentee. Life happens, people change, situations adapt. Keep the conversation open and know when it is time to walk away.
Mentoring isn't one way - I have found that you learn and get back as much from your mentees as you give.
While we only spent a month highlighting these brilliant women on social media, we hope that this has inspired others to call out and recognize bright women they know. Let's continue to shine a light on them, and instead of Women's History Month, let's transform 2021 into The Year of the Woman!
*If you are interested in having Rupal speak to your organization about her experiences as a mentor, a founder, or scientist, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org