Women of Color Research Network Discusses: The Importance of Mentoring

Women of Color Research Network Discusses: The Importance of Mentoring


I think mentoring lets people know that they’re
not alone that there are other people like them having the same experiences. It lets
them know how to go through and manage their career. Careers aren’t always linear. My
career zigged and zagged and then I finally ended up where I am at now, and I think that
people need to be able to take control of their career and make it work for them. And they’re more
likely to stay in a research career if they can tailor it to meet their needs. There’s a pillar of mentoring but I want to call it sponsorship because mentoring without
the sponsorship, which is actually advocating for the individual and really getting them
launched into awards helping–getting them into positions that they can be invited to
write opinion pieces and papers and getting them into leadership positions, that’s actual
sponsorship as opposed to mentorship and I think that is critical. Mentoring is the most gratifying part of my job as a deputy director of this institute. Don’t be deterred or discouraged
that these are so-called bigshots in their field, including the Nobel Laureates. In my
own career I’ve found out that those who are most successful in science, in their professions,
are also, likewise, the most generous. I think it’s really important to have somebody
who’s been there, done that and can say, give you a reality check about what you’re
doing, if it makes sense or not. So I think that’s why I keep always coming back to
mentoring and its role and sort of having a career that you own that’s not the linear
“Oh I went to graduate school and then made it to dean.” You’ve got to make it your
own, you’ve got to own it because nobody is going to tell you what you’re doing is
great. People don’t congratulate you on being successful. What happens is, you have
to find the rewards in your work. I tell people, I had to become something I
had never seen. What right did I have to believe that I could ever move into the science or
to be able to achieve at any level or to obtain a Ph.D or to, or to, or to… It’s like
because they’re like each step moving from one place to another place to another place.
At everywhere along that pathway, in a way you need affirmation. You need support and
help but you also need affirmation that you’re good enough. You are in a way given permission
to enter this space and if you’re not given that permission it’s harder to take that,
to use your own agency in order to take that space. My overarching goal is that we can, very quickly, get to 50 percent of women in leadership positions,
meaning at full professor level, and that’s what we need to have in order to change this
situation. So I’m calling it 50-50 by 2020 as my big goal, stretch goal, for the next
7 years.

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One Reply to “Women of Color Research Network Discusses: The Importance of Mentoring”

  1. Members of the NIH Women of Color Research Network (WoCRn) talk about the importance of mentoring in keeping women in #STEM fields.

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