Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations are expected to grow by almost 11% come the year 2031. People of all generations will fill these open roles, but Gen Z individuals, in particular, will flood the tech industry.
A recent survey of Gen Z students revealed that STEM careers were their number one choice. Female students made up a large portion of the respondents giving this answer. This is promising, considering we need more women in STEM.
But if we’re honest, it’s difficult to attract women to STEM careers, let alone keep them there. What can help? Mentorship. If we want more women in STEM, we need women already in the industry to guide the next generation. And that’s Gen Z.
There are Advantages AND Disadvantages of Mentoring Gen Z
Mentoring someone from Gen Z comes with unique advantages and disadvantages.
Gen Z is an incredibly diverse generation. Because of this, they’re innovative, creative, and open-minded, making them some of the best people to work with.
Also, despite spending a lot of time in the digital world, Gen Zers lack meaningful interactions in their day-to-day, fueling their loneliness.
Springtide Research Institute did a recent study on Gen Z. Without an adult mentor in their life, 58% said they sometimes or always have no one to talk to. That number dropped 10% with the addition of just one adult mentor in their lives. So, if Gen Z is seeking mentorship for anything, it’s to curb the loneliness they feel so often. And that gives mentors an emotionally-bound in.
Keep in mind that mentoring Gen Z has its challenges too. Navigating generational differences is one of them.
For example, if the mentor is from Gen X, their communication style is likely whatever’s most convenient. On the other hand, Gen Z prefers communicating via text and social media. If the differences in communication preferences aren’t acknowledged, it could hinder the connection and collaboration between mentor and mentee.
Another challenge is Gen Z’s obsession with hustle culture. They feel like long hours and sacrificing themselves is the key to success. Mentors will have to teach Gen Z mentees the importance of work-life balance. But breaking toxic hustle culture habits is easier said than done.
Mentoring Gen Z is a uniquely challenging responsibility. But it’s necessary, especially when it comes to mentoring Gen Z women in STEM.
Still, Mentoring Gen Z Women in STEM is Imperative
There aren’t nearly enough women in STEM careers. Only 16% of the STEM workforce in Australia is female. Blame the gender biases, pay gap, and lack of professional development opportunities in the industry for women.
But even though there aren’t a whole lot of women in STEM. They’re there. Many of them ready and willing to provide mentorship to young women in Gen Z interested in a STEM career. They can show them how to overcome gender biases. They can help them negotiate fair pay. They can teach them how to navigate sexual harassment and other barriers for women in STEM.
Also, STEM workers must work well with other departments to complete projects at times. But doing so can be difficult for women because they’re the minority, and that alone can dissuade them from getting in the mix.
Mentors can show Gen Z women coming up in the industry how to collaborate with other departments despite potentially being the only woman in the room. A more cohesive and creative workplace will result. And that means a more welcoming environment for women in STEM.
Ultimately, mentorship provides women with the unique support and guidance they need to carve out a long-term career in STEM.
Want to be an Effective Mentor to Gen Z Women in STEM? Do This.
Women in STEM who want to become mentors to up-and-coming Gen Z women in the field should implement the following advice to be most effective.
Master breaking down complex concepts
Many women shy away from STEM careers because there are a lot of technical concepts and skills involved. Learning and understanding them all can be challenging for a woman who isn’t yet technically literate or who is in the beginning stages of her STEM career.
The ability to explain technical ideas to non-technical people is invaluable as a mentor. You can make STEM jargon and technical skills digestible for women of varied skill levels. The more they understand, the more empowered they become. And when a woman is empowered, they have a sense of belonging that keeps them where they are.
Make a list of the complex concepts you want to teach your mentee. Practice explaining each concept in the simplest way possible. Use analogies, visuals, and anything else that will help ease comprehension.
Be sure to document your teachings so that you and your mentee can refer to them at any time.
Build real relationships
If you want your mentee to get as much as she can out of her mentorship experience, you must build a strong relationship with her. When she knows that you genuinely care, she’ll be more inclined to trust you and follow your lead.
Real relationships start with transparency. Be open and honest about your own experiences as a woman in STEM. Talk about what held you back, what hurt you the most, and how you persisted despite your setbacks.
Also, spend time with your mentee. Take them to work-related events like conferences and workshops. Do some socializing with them too. For instance, you could schedule an informal dinner a couple of times a month to get to know each other on a more personal level.
How strong your relationship is with the woman you’re mentoring largely depends on how intentional you are about building a genuine connection with her.
Ultimately, mentoring the next generation of STEM women is critical to keeping them in the field long-term. Consider the advice above if mentoring Gen Z women in STEM is on your radar.