Information for Mentors

Only one in four women who graduates with a degree related to science, technology, engineering or math continues to work in that field 10 years after graduation. We need your help to change that. As a woman in a STEM-related career, we invite you to volunteer as a mentor to a UK undergraduate woman majoring or minoring in a STEM discipline. Mentors will regularly interact with one or more students (to be determined by you and your mentee) and attend gatherings with the #IAmAWomanInSTEM student leaders, the leadership teams, and visitors. (See photos of past gatherings in our Google+ collection.)


WIAmAWomanInSTEM horizontal logohen Randolph Hollingsworth asked if I’d like to be a part of an effort to retain undergraduate women in STEM majors, I was happy to promote a true passion of mine -- advocating for women, and particularly for women in science. As faculty and women in STEM, the steering team wanted to set a framework for students to build their own initiative, one that empowers women in STEM, challenges stereotypes, creates connections, and raises awareness about issues for women in STEM: the pay gap, institutionalized sexism, and succeeding in male-dominated fields. Stories are powerful, and sharing stories of women in STEM — the challenges, the successes, the failures — can help women to understand that their experience is not unique. It’s a beautiful thing to see so many women empowering and supporting one another!
- Dr. Kate Eddens, Department of Health Behavior, UK College of Public Health

The #IAmAWomanInSTEM initiative launched at the University of Kentucky (UK) in the winter of 2015 with funding originally from the American Association of University Women.  The goal of this initiative is to increase graduation rates by women in STEM-related majors/minors at the postsecondary level.  This improvement needs to happen in all our colleges and universities, but we are starting locally and plan to go statewide by 2017. Partnering with the MillionWomenMentors-KY chapter (launched in September 2016 with Lt. Governor Janean Hampton as honorary chair), we seek to scale up the number of mentors available to undergraduate women.

At the core of the initiative is a leadership effort by young college-going women in an awareness campaign by and for undergraduates (via a shared hashtag for social media - #IAmAWomanInSTEM). Crucial to this leadership effort’s success is our mentoring program connecting undergraduate females who are in STEM majors/minors with female faculty/staff members and women in business/industry with STEM backgrounds. The #IAmAWomanInSTEM initiative should build on existing retention and student success initiatives in postsecondary institutions and directly address strategic objectives on diversity, high-impact educational practices, and civic engagement. We seek additional partners to support these efforts, both financially and in volunteer hours.

NOTE: Students can also serve as peer mentors for #IAmAWomanInSTEM initiative - sign up to be a STEM Group Leader under Student Ambassadors (see drop-down in top nav).

Mentor Responsibilities

#IAmAWomanInSTEM asks for the mentor volunteers to meet with their assigned student ambassadors at times that are determined to be best for each other (aiming for a total of 20 hours contact time per calendar year). In addition, we include the mentors in a private Googlegroup where general announcements are made by the leadership team (perhaps one or two messages per month). We also encourage the mentors to participate in our social media accounts (see icons in bottom left nav bar). Student ambassadors have used their personal social media accounts, and in-person presentations, to launch their own campaigns to support women in STEM. Ideally, these projects are supported and guided by their mentors. See more ideas about #IAmAWomanInSTEM mentoring in the suggestions handout (.pdf file) attached below. See also, Donna J. Dean's Getting the most out of your mentoring relationship - A handbook for women in STEM (Springer, 2009).

Example of a let's-get-together email from a mentor

After a mentor and mentee receive the introductory email from Dr. Hollingsworth indicating that they have been paired, the mentor might want to wait to see if the student ambassador takes the lead on organizing a time for them to get together. If the mentor does not hear soon from the student, then she might want to offer a follow-up email inviting the student to find a time for them to meet face-to-face:

Here's an example email from Dr. Kay Senoy, Biology (permission to reproduce has been given):

I am excited to be your mentor as part of the #IAmAWomanInSTEM program! This is an informal relationship between mentor and mentee. The main point is for you to have someone who is a fellow-woman in STEM to talk to every now and then, and feel free to voice concerns or get advice from. How much of a relationship you forge with me is completely up to you (no pressure!). For starters, let's get to know each other. We could begin by meeting in a non-academic setting, chat about how the semester is going, our plans in life, our backgrounds, our passions, and so on. I would be happy to take you out for coffee (or beverage of your choice) one of these days. Please fill out this Doodle poll with all times that you are available:...[URL supplied].

Let's take a break in our busy lives and get to know each other and share our experiences as women in STEM. I look forward to meeting you!  

Ready to volunteer to serve as a mentor for an #IAmAWomanInSTEM student leader? Please fill out the webform here: