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Women Supporting Women in the Workplace, Part 1 of 2: Why Women Can Go Further Together

A blonde woman wearing glasses working beside another woman wearing glasses and a headscarf at an office desk.

In this two-part series, Women’s Portfolio Strategist, Emma Kaufman, and Management Intern, Brittney Cardwell investigate three tools to create greater career equity and representation for women: mentoring, advocacy, and amplification. Here we discuss the benefits of mentorship.

The Power of Intersectionality in Creating Communities

As you read, consider how these tools can be used within a framework of intersectionality where women’s multiple identities are celebrated, and harnessed within the workforce. For mentoring, networking, and other career opportunities available to women of our Special Emphasis Communities, please refer to the “Finding a Mentor at NIH” section at the end of this blog.

“I spent the summer of my first year in graduate school on a rotation at NIH in the Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, where I had an experience that was exceptional for many reasons; productivity, mentoring, and self-identity are among the most important. As a result, when I was identifying potential institutions for post-doctoral training, NIH was among my top choices.”

- Anna Ramsey-Ewing
Director of the Office of Grants Management and Scientific Review
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences

Mentoring Supports Women's Career Advancement

In recent years, we have seen a growing awareness of the importance of women supporting women in the workplace. Despite progress in gender equity, women still face significant challenges in the workplace, including gender discrimination, bias, and unequal opportunities. However, studies (examples cited in the subsequent paragraphs) show that when women support each other, they can overcome these challenges and achieve greater success.

“Early in my career at NIH, I interacted with a female Institute/Center leader who was unapologetically herself. She was a straight shooter, honest, and unafraid to speak her mind, not to mention a fabulous mentor who lifted me up in the best way. While I had seen men in equivalent roles take a similar approach, I had never noticed a female leader doing so. I found this incredibly refreshing, eye-opening, and inspiring.”

- Tara Schwetz, Ph.D.
Acting Principal Deputy Director, National Institutes of Health”

Helping Women Reach Their Highest Potential

One 2015 study revealed that women who had supportive female networks were more likely to advance in their careers than those who did not. The study, which surveyed 118 companies and over 30,000 employees, found that women who had access to senior-level women sponsors were 26% more likely to have been promoted in the past year. Another study emphasized the importance of mentorship for women in leadership roles. The study highlighted the following benefits of mentorship for women in leadership:

  1. Access to knowledge and expertise: Mentors can provide women with valuable insights, skills, and knowledge about their industry or profession. This can help women develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in leadership roles.
  2. Networking opportunities: Mentors can introduce women to their professional networks, which provides women with new opportunities to connect with others, build relationships, and advance their careers.
  3. Emotional support: Mentors can provide emotional support, encouragement, and validation to women who may face discrimination, bias, or other challenges in their careers.
  4. Role modeling: Mentors can serve as positive role models for women, demonstrating what it takes to succeed in leadership roles and helping them visualize their potential for success.

Women Who Mentor at NIH

“[I mentor] wonderful trainees from the U.S. and all over the world who have become great research scientists, physicians, physician-scientists, pharmacists, pathologists, toxicologists, [and] veterinarians. [They] all contribute to making the world environmentally safer and healthier. [Mentoring] inspires and motivates young, underrepresented minority students to consider pursuing a career in science and biomedical research. [I value] sharing the joys of research and allowing junior scientists to be creative in asking great research questions and designing experiments to address those questions. I think being a mentor has been my greatest accomplishment.”

- Darlene Dixon
Researcher and Toxicologic Pathologist
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Finding a Mentor at NIH

Mentorship can play a critical role in promoting gender equity and supporting women's advancement in leadership positions. While mentorship is an excellent tool for women to support other women in the workplace, it is just one of many in the DEIA toolkit. Read the second blog in this series to learn about other tools.

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