I was really delighted by the response to my post on mentoring last week. Over 100 people have read that post with around 70 of them doing so just after it was posted.
It also sparked some great feedback on Facebook. There was a discussion of how mentoring and patronage might be different things (or not?) and highlighted that perhaps this is a bit tough to disentangle. Maybe the question is what do we want from mentoring rather than are we ready for it? Have a look yourself and contribute 🙂
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I was involved in a fascinating Twitter tweep?/chat? today with many women I have been discussing gender related issues with over the years. My feed is open here https://twitter.com/pre_historic?ref_src=twsrc^google|twcamp^serp|twgr^author and I don’t mind if you have a look!
The question was – how far is mentoring helpful for female academic early career archaeologists? And the answer seems to be (with the caveat
#AnecdataIsNotData), not always. But why should that be the case?
When we first set up the BWA in 2008, we tried to implement a mentoring support network, and failed. Partly it was due to a complete absence of (and I mean absolutely no) women who wanted to be mentored. We had offers of mentors but much to my embarrassment, no women wanted to volunteer as mentees.
Also, over the last couple of years I’ve been involved with the DCMS events supporting women in the sector. And more chatting there (
#AnecdataIsNotData) suggests that women don’t want to be mentored formally. The issues are twofold – most women who engage with this want the most important women mentors – the most successful and powerful. Those women are inundated by requests and can feel ‘used’ – that they are simply performing an introduction service! Secondly, women don’t want to engage in a ‘matching’ of mentor/mentee. It feels like a bad speed date. So they tend to shy away. It appears both to represent a weakness of character on one hand, and an indulgence of ‘I need help with my career’ on the other. This is all a shame, and the implementation of mentoring networks is not either a stigma or an advantage; it’s just simply to address the lack of equality in the workplace, giving space for anyone to think actively about their career. Peer mentoring was mentioned today as being particularly effective in a sense of #AnecdataIsNotData again. I have always been astounded that my friends will absolutely not let me fail, even when a time-poor single-parent PhD with no money, and even when I wail as impressively as I can! It’s a wonderful support and endorsement.
So tonight I leave you with two things – the report from the Women’s Business Council https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/456420/DfE_WBC_Two_years_on_report_update_AW_CC.pdf about the importance to the economy of women’s equality; and Hannah Cobb’s tweet about a new mentoring network https://twitter.com/ArchaeoCobb/with_replies . Have we moved on since 2008? Are women ready to manage their careers like they manage their reading lists/work clothes/other halves? Let’s see…….