Mentorship can be an important tool to professional development. But, like many other aspects of professional life, there is a gender discrepancy. In the U.S., 82% of men have had male mentors, while just 69% of women have had female mentors, according to an Olivet University study.
Women in Tech Alliance (WITA), a new employee resource group at PEAK6, is trying to change this, and at the same time, move the needle on getting—and keeping—more women in technology. WITA plans to help women succeed through mentorship and professional development tools, creating space for increased representation.
The challenge of women’s representation in tech is real. As of January 2020, women occupied more than half of the U.S. workforce at 50.4%, but less than one-quarter of technology jobs.
A mere 20% of engineering graduates are women, and only 11% of working engineers are women. This is a big loss for the tech industry.
What is WITA?
Women in Tech Alliance (WITA) was formed by PEAK6 employees to empower and elevate women in technology at PEAK6. WITA’s mentorship program connects people who have specific skills and knowledge with individuals who are seeking the same skills to advance their career, skill level or performance.
“There is still much work to do to reach balanced diversity in the technology field. We believe in creating opportunities to encourage women to enter tech and support women who are already contributing their talents in this sector. We formed WITA to address tech talent diversity within our own organization,” says Kathy McClure, senior engineering manager at Apex Clearing, and one of the leaders of WITA.
The WITA mentorship program is primarily designed to help women grow in their tech roles with mentors providing coaching and professional development. To attract more women to enter tech careers in the first place, PEAK6 leans into internship programs like its Technology Experience for Women and Trading Experience for Women.
What does a mentor do anyway?
A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser who, through a long-term relationship, supports the growth and development of the mentee in an informal way. In lieu of a manager or co-worker, employees can turn to their mentor for career guidance, interpersonal development, and to learn about company inner workings. The mentor will act as a role model for the mentee, but the mentoring relationship can be beneficial to both parties involved.
A mentor forms a trusted relationship with a mentee and:
• shares information about their own career path,
• provides mentee career planning guidance,
• provides mentee support and feedback,
• helps explore mentee’s career goals,
• helps mentee network and develop contacts,
• helps challenge the mentee by providing different approaches and ways of thinking,
• is a personal advocate for the mentee, and
• helps solve challenges the mentee brings forward.
Top tips from our mentors
Our mentors shared some of the lessons they’ve learned in their careers to date:
“Challenge yourself. In times of discomfort, this is when you are going to grow the most. Sure, it’s easier to stay in a comfortable place but this restricts you from all of the potential you have. Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” advises Natalie Langan, scrum master at PEAK6.
“Always ask your questions, even if you’re feeling shy or intimidated. If you have the question, then there’s a chance someone else does, too. And if no one else does, there’s a chance that your question sheds light on a problem no one else sees yet,” says Brooke Cowan, senior director of data science at Apex Clearing.
“Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, seek the support you need, and, most of all, rise to the challenge to be the best you can be. The best way to get help is to ask for it. People do want to help,” says Lisa Stevenson, vice president of engineering at PEAK6 Northern Ireland.
WITA is a new group and the mentorship program is just getting started. We’re excited to see where it goes. Just like we’re excited to see where the women who participate go.
“Mentoring is very effective at helping women really consider who they want to become and how they want to get there,” says Kathy McClure. “We hope women will want to be here, growing with our team.”
Want to grow with us? Check out our open roles.