Helping women in tech thrive through mentorship
According to the United Nations Institute of Statistics (UIS) less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women. Numerous studies have found that women in STEM fields publish less, are paid less for their research and do not progress as far as men in their careers. UNESCO notes that a strong gender imbalance exists globally, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, in regard to women’s representation in STEM fields.
So, how do we encourage and support women in technology to persevere in their chosen field, and encourage young women graduates looking to start a career in technology? In its report on Factors Which Contribute to or Inhibit Women in Science, the African Academy of Sciences noted that, “the choice to pursue STEM related careers was further influenced by other women working in STEM who acted as role models.” Mentorship can play a powerful role in encouraging women in their roles within the field of technology.
Wentors is a global community of women in technology mentoring and nurturing each other through a platform in which experienced women in the tech industry can mentor upcoming young women joining the industry, and final year students looking to start a technology career.
The initiative was launched by Microsoft employee, EduAbasi Chikwunweike, a graduate in software engineering with her Masters’ degree in Informatics. Chikwunweike noticed that as a solutions specialist in the enterprise team responsible for the cloud business in Nigeria, most of her conversations within the customer environment were with men. This got her thinking about how she could make an impact with gender diversity in the technology industry, and ultimately led to the launch of Wentors.
Wentors believes that every woman can aspire for a role in technology and achieve her goal, and that the people best situated to nurture these dreams are the women currently working in technology. The organisation runs Cohorts programmes, eight to 12-week periods during which each mentor commits to an hour-long weekly session with her mentee. The cohorts have weekly themes and provide the mentors with mentorship packages to guide them through the process.
As part of the cohort, the programme provides soft skills training and webinars in areas such as personal branding, networking, communication and Imposter syndrome. The goal of this training is to provide women entering the tech industry with the skills necessary to thrive and sustain a career within the tech ecosystem. The Wentors community grants its participants access to expertise crucial for career progression.
The programmes are all facilitated virtually, which enables a global audience to participate, and leverages AI algorithms to match mentors with mentees, and a mentoring framework with a set number of sessions, continuous feedback between mentors and mentees, and a progress measurement. The organisation uses Microsoft’s Office 365 and hosts all its training and webinars using Teams.
To date, Wentors has facilitated mentorship among 240 women across four continents, with a community of over 900 members. Now, the programme has set itself an ambitious target of facilitating 1,000 mentorships across the world. To achieve this lofty goal, the organisation is partnering with different communities and tech companies.
Meeting this goal is vitally important, as this brings the organisation closer to increasing the numbers of women represented in the tech industry. The ultimate goal for Wentors is to have women in technology make up 50% across all positions in the IT industry, which amounts to impacting the lives of 8 million women globally.