Perspectives from ISB

WEI has been off to a great start in 2019, with an exciting research project on women mentorship at a Fortune 500 company. With our research, we are aiming to investigate the current status of Indian women in technology. Why this sub-population? The general sense from our mentees was that women engineering students are very sincere and hardworking but male students by virtue of the culture, social norms get more opportunities. We wanted to explore the gender gap in tech starting at the education phase.

Our preliminary findings show that senior women leaders in tech serve as strong role models for female engineering students. This is not really unexpected. However, the reasons behind our mentees looking up to their mentors is not just because of their stellar career paths. It is equally for the mentors’ sharing of stories about carving out solutions in work-life balance struggles or taking a resilient outlook to the failures or challenges.

What surprised us was the outpouring of love for mentors. Mentees described mentors as their “daily vitamin dose,” their champions, the “sun on gloomy days,” and source of inspiration. They revealed that the biggest support from mentors was in the low phases, when managers or the environment were not conducive or there were strong biases. During those phases, men and women might have both helped– but there was more direct connection with women mentors because of a natural empathy, the energy and motivation coming from the senior women leaders having experienced something similar. The mentors always showed what aspects to bring to the table and helped find a solution.

Why should mentors invest time in guiding mentees? They are helping entry-level women meet corporate women, see what professional life looks like, acquire skills that are really needed and get an insight into what to expect from the workplace.

One of the mentors we interviewed shared that women mentoring other women helps in two ways. It acts as a beacon which mentees can look up to. Mentors give direction and motivation. Secondly, when mentees are actually in that situation which needs solutioning, mentors can help give the sense that there are others around to support. It’s a big booster. She said:

“Mentors are your antibiotic, or a B-complex or vitamin C. That is how mentoring is. It is needed when you have an ailment and it’s also needed when you don’t have an ailment, but you need to be in good health.”
We can’t wait to complete this study and share our findings. Our takeaway? This Valentine’s Day love thy mentor. Love them for being a role model, a bouncing board for ideas. Love them for their triumphs and tribulations. Because we stand on the shoulders of many others who went before us.

Yogini Joglekar