What is Mentoring?

In general terms, mentoring involves committed, supportive individuals assisting others in personal, academic, or professional growth. For purposes of this project, mentoring will also include: providing role models; providing positive, fun experiences with science and technology; providing information about career pathways in emerging technologies, including the courses needed and opportunities that await girls who pursue them; and providing opportunities for recruitment into community college programs.

A mentor can provide personal information about a career. This can be very important for young people making career decisions, especially for young women considering a career in the science and engineering. … There are many information sources available nowadays, but the first hand interactive relationship that a mentor can provide is very valuable. For example, a mentor is an excellent person to answer specific questions about their field. The ideal is to seek mentors in fields about which you know little. Often one mentor can refer you to people they know in other science or engineering fields. A female mentor is also a role model showing that there are women in the field she has chosen. This is helpful when the field is heavily male dominated.1

We have learned that exposure to role models—especially “people like you”—helps students identify with a profession. Even better, a mentor can offer a voice that is personal and inviting. A mentor offers information and facts that dispel stereotypes and negative impressions and personalizes the encounter with unfamiliar territory. Mentors can be “near-peers”—other students who are ahead in confidence and skills, or just in age and maturity, or adults (parents, counselors, teachers, volunteers).2

In other words, mentoring is a developmental, caring, sharing, and helping relationship where one person invests time, know-how, and effort in enhancing another person’s growth, knowledge, and skills, and responds to critical needs in the life of that person in ways that prepare the individual for greater productivity or achievement in the future.3

A mentor is a person looked upon for wise advice and guidance. A mentee is a person guided and helped, especially in the furtherance of his or her career, by a more influential or skilled person.4

1. “Mentoring.” Women in Science, Engineering & Technology Network. WISEST website: http://www.wisest.ualberta.ca/mentorship.cfm

2. New Formulas for America’s Workforce: Girls in Science and Engineering. National Science Foundation, 2003.

3.Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. Quoted in CWIT Mentoring Tool Kit.

4. CWIT Mentoring Tool Kit. Center for Women & Information Technology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 2004.