Policy Option 2: Mentoring programs for women entering the workforce

Goal:

Goals of mentorship programs is to have experienced professionals work closely with women who have entered the workforce to support them in. By mentoring women from early on in their careers, workplaces become more accessible as women have support in facing barriers.

Mentors:

  • Share their knowledge and best practices
  • Act as an advocate and champion
  • Create inclusive practices in the workplace that will eradicating the barriers that women face.

Mentorship programs can be used across industries to help promote and support women, build networks inside and outside the workplace, and creates an environment of championing and supporting women.  

Evidence and Arguments:

Research shows that women in leadership positions creates diversity across organizations. Mentorship programs can help women attain leadership positions faster and to a higher level. In male-dominated industries, it can be difficult for women to attain “insider-knowledge”, which puts them at a disadvantage. Mentors can support women in navigating the barriers.

Mentorship programs are beneficial to mentees in developing skills needed to excel in many workplaces across industries.

  • Increasing their self-confidence
  • how to advocate for themselves
  • Improves their interpersonal skills, builds networks, and helps orient them to the organizational culture and “unspoken rules” of the workplace.

These skills can help women in achieving equality in the workplace; through mentoring women and creating an environment of support women are more likely to be successful in male-dominated industries, bridge the pay gap, and attain leadership positions.

Key Decision Makers

A mentorship program requires champions who consider it a worthwhile investment. This requires organizational leadership and upper management to be behind the project. Direction could also come from the board of directions or HR department, as mentorship programs can create significant benefit for the organization. The mentorship program requires an experienced professional who are willing to give their time.

Many civil society groups are starting mentorship programs for women to fill a void left by workplaces who may not have the resources, willingness, or capacity to have in-house mentorship programs. Important stakeholders are also experienced professionals who are willing to give their time.

Resources:

Resources required are dependent on the organization, the benefit is a very high reward for low overhead; most mentorship programs just require human capital.

One resource required is experienced professionals. Formal mentorship programs may have a process of applications, pairing mentors with mentees, and providing participants with guides for the program along with additional resources. However, mentorship programs can also be very informal.

Challenges:

One of the challenges: it’s often women who step into mentorship roles for other women. Women experienced in their given industry can offer invaluable guidance to younger women about the unique barriers they face, there is often an expectation that women will step into this role. This creates a double-burden on women, whose male counterparts may not be expected to take on such additional responsibilities. It’s important men act as mentors to young women in the workplace as well.

Another challenge is relying solely on mentorship to eradicate gender inequalities in the workplace. While it can go along way in support women, there are many other solutions needed.

Counter-arguments:

Such research should be conducted by post-secondary institutions and shared with secondary institutions, a research staffing increase would not be necessary at the secondary level and no added cost to provincial governments

Evidence and Arguments:

Queen’s University is among the few universities that implemented “major maps” outlining skills gained in each major. Maps include tools for career planning based on individual career goals and suggestions of career development to pursue each year for the duration of the degree.

The University of Leverne reported more than 50% of university students pursue majors unrelated to their careers. Introducing career maps early on will better equip students to match their field of study to desired career and develop the skills needed to pursue such a career.

Changing fields of study is expensive and can prolong the length of pursuing a degree.

The University of Leverne reports between 50%-70% of students change their major at least once. This may be caused by lack of adequate career counselling prior to applying to post-secondary institutions. Western Kentucky University showed changing majors is one of the top contributors to a delayed degree completion.

Women are often steered away from careers in STEM, trades, business, and agriculture through education and socialization. Women are not given ample information or space to consider such careers regardless of their interests.

A study commissioned by Microsoft found girls often become interested in STEM related fields around the age of 11, however this interest quickly declines at age 15. The socialization process of people toward certain career paths begins the first few years of attending secondary school. To continue to engage the interest of young women in non-traditional fields, they must be given the opportunity.

Targeted program recruitment could be facilitated by recruitment officers talking about education and career opportunities in nontraditional fields and engaging young women in conversations about their interests, skills, and matching those to such programs.