This article is written by a passionate STEM advocate and volunteer of UWS, Radhika Mittal.
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is the future. As we work together solving future problems through scientific and technological innovations, encouraging girls to pursue STEM fields only becomes more important. Female representation in these industries is critical, but the fact remains that not enough girls are confident about going into these industries. The cause of this is clear: women are deemed inferior when it comes to math and science. This issue serves to perpetuate itself because unless the change is created, young girls will continue to have few female role models.
With this in mind, United Women Singapore (UWS) launched its mentorship program in February of 2022 by introducing young women to STEM mentors with the goal of closing their confidence gap. With over 200 girls as mentees, the program hopes to inspire more young girls with the confidence to enter STEM fields.
At the programme’s graduation day in September, we had the pleasure of interviewing some mentors and mentees about their experiences in the programme. Here are the responses from two mentees, Shanice and Wei Ping, as well as two amazing mentors, Sindhura and Mona.
Question: What were your goals going into the program?
Shanice: My first goal was to be more confident, and my second goal was to decide which career path I wanted to go into. I think the program helped me decide to go into engineering because I learned more about the field.
Question: What are your highlights from this program?
Shanice: I enjoyed meeting with the mentors face to face and participating in the workshops. In the workshops, we did activities such as personality tests to help determine what jobs we wanted to do. I also made new friends!
Question: What were your biggest takeaways from the program?
Wei Ping: The mentors shared their experiences with us, and gave us advice on our future. They helped us make decisions on our career paths and become more confident.
Question: How do you think the program helped bridge the confidence gap between young girls and boys?
Wei Ping: The programme helped us to meet and converse with new people and forming relationships with them. Especially during small group mentoring sessions, we were taught to build our confidence. We mapped our career paths so that we had a clear idea of our goals and how to get there.
Question: What fields are you looking to go into in the future?
Wei Ping: I would like to go into design because I’m currently studying it. However, I haven’t decided which part of design I’m going to go into yet.
Shanice: Originally, I wanted to go into science, but after completing the course I wanted to do engineering because the mentorship helped me realize it was the more suitable career path for me.
Question: How would you describe your relationships with the mentors?
Wei Ping: We felt very close, very comfortable to be with them all the time. We could share with them.
Shanice: At first, I was a bit nervous. But over time, they gave me advice and we got to know each other better. It definitely helped to build our confidence.
Question: Do you think that role models are important?
Wei Ping: I think that they help you move past roadblocks, and they offer helpful advice when you don’t know what to do
Shanice: The workshops, such as the personality test, showed me that I would be most comfortable in an engineering environment in the future.
Question: Do you feel more ready to enter the workforce?
Shanice: I’m not a hundred percent ready yet, but we have an idea of what it’s like to work in the industry. We also did presentations with feedback from the judges, so we know exactly where to improve and what we’re already good at!
Question: What are your biggest takeaways from this experience?
Wei Ping: The mentors taught us how organisations function and how to carry ourselves in a formal setting. The program helped me plan for the future so that I felt more confident about where I was going.
Shanice: We did a lot of self-reflection, such as with those personality tests on what we value most. The other thing is life mapping, where we looked at all the positive and negative things that have happened during our life and where we can go from there.
Here are the mentors, sharing their experiences and thoughts on the programme:
Question: Why do you believe it is important to have women in STEM?
Mona: I strongly believe in the advantages of diversity. A company, project, or team with different mindsets and perspectives of life can solve a problem way more efficiently than a purely homogenous group. Especially in STEM, women can bring innovation paired with great leadership to revolutionize the tech industry.
Question: How would you describe your relationship with the mentees?
Mona: I’d say it took a few sessions to warm up to each other. After breaking the ice, we established a trustworthy environment between the mentees and mentors to share thoughts, experiences, and opinions. A key point in our relationship with the mentees is that sharing is going both ways: everyone learns from each other.
Sindhura: This is my second year as a mentor with UWS Girls2Pioneers programme and I have enjoyed learning and unlearning via my mentees. Mentoring is a two-way street, you sometimes learn as much as you give. My mentees bring fresh ideas and perspectives which I appreciate.
Question: What advice would you give to girls hoping to pursue a career in STEM?
Sindhura: At this point, the biggest challenge I see women in tech face is not believing in themselves and holding themselves back from achieving their dreams. Tap into networks and mentors to share your ideas and goals. Life will always happen, embrace it fully, knowing that things will not always be the same at every personal or professional milestone, there will be tradeoffs and disappointments and excitement, but don’t let that stop you!
The Girls2Pioneers STEMentorship programme has been received well by all the stakeholders, and seems to be bridging a gap in terms of getting the girls the right career guidance from industry professionals at the right time in their academic journey. Join the 2023 STEMentorship programme here!