March 22, 2021
Software.org Starts the Year Celebrating National Mentorship Month
January 28, 2021
Despite the limitations imposed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are forging ahead with our work to ensure that people of all backgrounds have access to the training and mentorship opportunities that are so important to help them identify and prepare for tech careers in their chosen fields. That work kicks off right away because January marks National Mentorship Month in the United States, and it will not end there because our efforts extend throughout the year.
There is much work to be done to ensure that the tech workforce reflects the diversity of our world. For example, there is a well-documented gender gap in tech: only 24 percent of computer scientists are women. Research shows that girls express interest in exploring STEM activities when they are young – but this interest tends to decrease as they get older. A lack of female role models perpetuates the gender gap, strengthening stereotypes that STEM careers are better suited for men than women. The need to build a diverse tech workforce is urgent, and role modeling and mentorship are key to address this disparity.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we work and interact with one another, software has powered new ways to connect, creating additional mentorship opportunities. In many cases, it has broadened our ability to reach people from across the country. That was certainly the case earlier this month, when Software.org had the honor of joining the Public Leadership Education Network’s Women in STEM Policy seminar. PLEN is a national organization preparing college women for leadership in the public policy arena. Over the course of an afternoon, we met bright young women and discussed emerging tech issues and the broad range of careers that falls under the umbrella of tech and STEM that they could consider pursuing. Exchanges like these are always very interesting, and we are very pleased to hear stories about how they play a role in students’ career plans.
Emelin Flores, who attended PLEN’s STEM Policy Seminar in 2020, shared her mentorship story with us: “In my last year of undergrad I was honored to attend the PLEN Conference in DC to learn more about STEM policy and women who are leading efforts. On one of my company visits, I met the team at Software.org. I immediately connected with Leticia who ended up not only giving me great advice on how to move my career forward but even helped me with my internship interviews and connected me with more women in DC who have the same passions as me. Leticia’s mentorship guided me to success, and I continue to remind myself of her words as I continue to navigate my post graduate life.”
Our work with PLEN is just one part of Software.org’s ongoing mission to promote diversity in the tech industry. Our partnership with Girls Who Code is another great example. Each summer, we welcome a new group of high schoolers for our Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. In a few short weeks, the students learn to code – and they also participate in mentorship workshops and learn about career opportunities in STEM from industry experts. Applications for this year’s program are now being accepted, and students across the United States are encouraged to apply online at www.girlswhocode.com/sipapply. Early acceptance applications are due by mid-February, with the general application closing in mid-March. We look forward to meeting and working with the incoming 2021 Girls Who Code class.
Mentoring young people and promoting STEM education in schools is an important part of promoting diversity in the tech industry. In addition, we want to ensure that people of all ages and in various stages of their careers can learn digital skills. This is especially important in the aftermath of COVID-19, as millions of Americans struggle to access education and training opportunities that would empower them to find new roles in tech or advance in their current positions. That is why we have pulled together remote training opportunities on TransformYourTrade.org. These programs enable workers to learn new skills from the comfort of their own home and help build a more geographically diverse tech talent pool.
Connecting underrepresented groups with role models and mentors in their industry is an important step to creating an inclusive, diverse tech workforce, and we look forward to continuing our engagement in this area. To learn more about our efforts to develop the next generation of tech workers, visit: https://software.org/initiatives/
Leticia Lewis serves as Director of Software.org. In this capacity, she focuses on the foundation’s workforce development initiatives, including projects promoting diversity and inclusion in the software industry. She also works to help policymakers and the general public to better understand the positive impact of software on people’s lives and on all sectors of the global economy.