According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 50.4 percent of the United States workforce (excluding people who work on farms and the self-employed), yet according to a survey from consulting firm DDI, 63 percent of women have never had a formal mentor.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that employees with mentors are more likely to get promoted. This, combined with an intensely challenging labor market in which women accounted for almost 80 percent of those over age 20 who left the workforce in January and new rules for navigating careers in response to the global pandemic, has led to questions and frustrations for many young female professionals.
In February 2021, New York Institute of Technology’s Women’s Technology Council (WTC) established a mentoring program to support and guide the university’s female students from college to career.
The program pairs seven New York Tech alumnae—successful professionals in technology-related fields with experience in mentoring and in breaking barriers and glass ceilings—with seven New York Tech female students across four disciplines—architecture, biology, computer science, and finance—who underwent an intense selection process for inclusion.
“The multidisciplinary approach gives everyone a chance to share their own insights and experiences, providing exceptional and unexpected opportunities for a profound sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and growth,” said Nada Anid, Ph.D., co-founder of the WTC and New York Tech vice president for strategic communications and external affairs.
Each mentor-mentee pair meets once every few months allowing all participants, who represent different backgrounds, perspectives, and disciplines, to form new and lasting professional and personal relationships. Group activities include lectures, guest speakers, and online movies, followed by debriefs and discussions.
“Our student mentees will have unique access to opportunities to learn and grow professionally, offering them skills, knowledge, and insights, along with the confidence and lifelong relationships to help them succeed in their future endeavors,” Anid said.
“I am the first woman in my family to get a degree and the only member in an engineering field,” said New York Tech student Sakshi Rambhia, a sophomore majoring in computer science. “Guidance from WTC mentors will help me access more opportunities and define a path forward.”
The full cohort of 14 will meet once every few months, allowing all participants, who represent different backgrounds, perspectives, and disciplines, to form new and lasting professional and personal relationships. Group activities will include lectures, guest speakers, and online movies, followed by debriefs and discussions.
The program is the brainchild of Edie Weiner, president and CEO of The Future Hunters and one of the founding members of the WTC, which began in 2019 as a way to connect female students with opportunities, role models, and resources to help them succeed in their professional and personal lives. It’s not Weiner’s first foray into establishing mentorship programs. She created a prototype for mentoring young students in teams in the 1990s, multiplying their opportunities to connect with successful women.
Over six years, she paired 75 executive/professional women with 75 underserved teenage girls, working with community-based organizations to source the students. While the mentor-mentee relationships were one-on-one, each pair was part of a five-pair team. During the program, the girls established a relationship with their mentee as well as the other four girls on their team. This connection created a strong bond, and when one needed a helping hand, there was someone there to reach out. An overwhelming majority of both women and girls expressed excitement about their relationships and what they learned.
“I firmly believe a team approach like this can work well and that it can have benefits well beyond the traditional one-on-one mentoring model,” noted Weiner. “In the case of New York Tech, benefits include providing alumni who may not know each other the ability to network with each other and feel much closer to the university. Over time, it will become a much-sought-after value-add of attending New York Tech for young women deciding where to go for their education.”
Watch New York Tech students interview WTC board members on a variety of career and professional development topics.