I recently had the opportunity to deliver a keynote address at the California chapter launch of the Million Women Mentors Initiative in San Francisco. The initiative supports “the engagement of one million Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) mentors (male and female) to increase the interest and confidence of girls and women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers.”
The value of mentoring is one I relate to on a deeply personal level. Early in my career, as a woman in a field dominated by men, I faced many challenges. Had it not been for strong mentors in my life who encouraged and helped me find the strength to persevere, I would probably not be where I am today.
That’s why I was so happy to be invited to serve as honorary California chair for the Million Women Mentors initiative. I am excited about our goal of 50,000 mentor pledges in California by 2018. Both men and women can serve as mentors and girls in STEM fields — and our state and nation—will be the beneficiaries.
We have taken a number of steps at UC Davis to address the challenges faced by under-represented communities in STEM.
- One program called WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) addresses sexism in STEM by increasing recruitment, retention and success of women and LGBTQIA students and faculty. The WISE program also allows us to bring girls from local, low-income schools to visit UC Davis where they can meet students, faculty and staff; visit lab tours; and participate in hands-on science workshops for a firsthand experience of the possibilities of STEM in their lives.
- Another program, UC Davis ADVANCE, allows us to recruit under-represented STEM scholars to join our faculty. In turn, these faculty members can serve as mentors and role models to young female students.
We are working hard at UC Davis to stamp out biases, both conscious and unconscious, so we can have a culture on our campus of diversity and inclusion for all of our students. I believe that we have a responsibility to support, mentor and inspire women to enter STEM fields, and the Million Women Mentor Initiative can help us do so.