Women In Bio-Capital Region held its September event in conjunction with Society for Neuroscience, Greater Baltimore Chapter with generous support from the University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark, who provided the venue and refreshments in conjunction with their monthly “Science in the City” networking event. The title of the event was “Scientific Leadership: How Women Can Encourage Advancement Through Focused Mentoring.” We heard from three wonderful panelists: Cherita Adams, Janet Clark and Erin Lavik, and our moderators were Amritha Jaishankar and Michael Nestor. Topics covered by our panel discussion included:
Find a mentor.
Mentors aren't formally assigned to you, so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask someone to be your mentor or tell them that you think of them as one. It can be uncomfortable to reach out, but it gets better with practice. A great start is to give a potential mentor a compliment or ask them about their science. Men can be great mentors, sponsors, and advocates. It is important to have a mentoring team, rather than just one mentor. In order to do that, you need to grow your network. You might be surprised to know that your next mentor can be found on LinkedIn.
Pay it forward.
Like any relationship, it is important to maintain mentor-mentee relationships throughout your career, adding people as you encounter new problems and settings. A great way to give back to mentors is by thanking them and staying in touch (when you don't need them, too!), whether it's catching up at a conference or sending a Christmas letter. "Paying it forward" and becoming a mentor to someone else is another great way to say thanks. Remember that mentoring is less about providing answers and more about listening, being a sounding board, and offering any related experiences you may have.
Understand your values.
Understand your values and use those to guide you to mentors. Sponsors, advocates, and coaches don't necessarily have to share all of the same values. A tip to understanding your values is to tell a couple of trusted people several of your "mountaintop" stories. These are times when you really shined and felt good. What values do they see displayed in those stories? Moments when work conflicts with values are great times to seek advice from mentors. They may not always be able to advocate for you, but they can help you explore how to handle it.
UMB's UMBRELLA program and wellness coaches, NIMH's unconscious bias training, and several UMBC initiatives that circle back to a central value of "inclusive excellence".
Despite increasing awareness of the importance of mentoring and inclusion in general, the panelists all agreed that there is still much progress to be made. Studies have shown that it is not just one group to blame -- women can hold some of the same biases against women as men! We aren't always in positions to affect change when we see something that is not right. But if we are, we must speak up. If we aren't in a position to affect change, it's a good signal to look at the organization and see if we will ever be in a position to affect change. If not, it may be time to consider how well that organization aligns with our values.
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