Where were you, women engineers?
Mentoring does not consider gender, but it does help highlight roles and guide new generations, regardless of their sex
I am not an engineer by vocation. When I was younger, I didn’t know what engineers did or even if women engineers existed because I personally didn’t know any or have external references. Where were you?
How did I choose to study engineering, and on top of that, the telecommunications field? I believe it was because of the lack of an alternative vocation. I was certain of what I did NOT want to study, but I did not know what I wanted to focus on instead. So, like many women my age, I made the decision a few days before my university pre-enrollment. Although I was good at math, physics and science, I also enjoyed literature and history. My mind was a mess! However, I was told that there was a future in telecommunications.
This was the first situation in which I would have liked the support of a mentor who would guide and help me choose a career.
In fact, mentoring should have started much earlier, as far back as primary or secondary school. Presentations in academic institutions and mentorships for high school students are extremely valuable tools that work in conjunction with the efforts of high school tutors and provide students with a vision of the business world that many teachers simply do not have. They also give visibility to the gender factor in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which is key in boosting the vocations of girls at a young age.
Back to my story. I completed by degree with more lows than highs, but ultimately, between parties, “mus” card games at the bar, and countless marathon sessions in the library, my university era came to an end. And the doubts once again appeared: What do I do now? Should I travel to New Zealand for a year, earn a Master’s degree or get a job? At what company and in what industry? With a telecommunications provider? In the corporate sector?
This is the second instance that I would have greatly benefited from the experience of a mentor who would explain the options available to me and the job market, and who would give a dose of reality to my expectations. Ultimately, this person would use their “real-life” knowledge to explain what awaited me.
It is important to note that a mentor does not make decisions for you. This person explains and guides, and also shares their own experiences. A mentor does not need specific training. They simply have already lived through the student and professional eras that you will undertake in the near future, but they are not a coach.
Mentoring does not consider gender, but it does help highlight roles, increase awareness and guide new generations, regardless of their sex This is why I defend mentoring with the aim of creating role models and promoting vocations among female students. Male students should also have mentors, but for different reasons.
Throughout the mentorship process, the education is bidirectional and both parties learn, as in any one-on-one relationship. A bond of trust is created, experiences are shared, and you reflect on things by communicating. It is an enriching experience that I highly recommend.
I can now say that I am a mentor by vocation. Sharing our experiences and lessons learned, explaining our mistakes and successes, and comparing different points of view is the best gift we can give to our children, primary students and university students who, now more than ever, need a clear and critical mindset.
I believe that women will change the world and make it a better place, but in order for this to happen we must have access to decision-making positions, which in turn requires us to be trained in all areas.
STEM fields are the future and we should encourage and support girls (their words) to study those areas because, in the very least, girls should know that those fields exist and that they have all the necessary potential to be the best.
Ana Moliner is currently involved in the MENTOS program at the UPF.