Editor's Note: This post is part of a series produced by HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. Join the community as we discuss issues affecting women in science, technology, engineering and math.
Men do it well.
They take a young man (or woman) under their wings and sponsor him to their friends and connections for good jobs, promotions, salary increases. I've had the great fortune of benefiting personally from male sponsors help launch me into big titles, promotions and great fulfilling careers. I have also benefited from great women as mentors.
But back to the men...
It was Christmas 1996, and we were sitting in a cafe in the main Piazza of Parma, Italy sipping fabulously strong espresso with a pinch of steamed milk. Two men in navy cashmere coats came to join us and see my stepfather. They were joined by a very handsome young man, Stefano* to meet my dear stepfather, a big executive, and asked his support to help him get a job with a major U.S. company. Unfortunately, he was not there to be fixed up with me, there was a much more important objective. Smiles all around, pats on the back, arms flailing with enthusiasm over a friendly interview. Stefano was in the door, got a great job through sponsored introductions with support of my stepfather Mario and is thriving and climbing the ranks quickly. Bravo. Well done.
There was a great article by Brigid Shulte in the Washington Post this past Sunday on this key issue of sponsorship as a way to break the glass ceiling for women. Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett was interviewed saying "Less than eight percent of top earners in this economy are female," and that the figure has not changed in 15 years. We are hearing similar sentiments from many other countries.
She also points out that "men are 46 percent more likely to have an active sponsor who thrown opportunities their way and speaks highly of them behind closed doors." She states that mentoring is not enough, but I think it has a key role to play, especially in STEM careers where salaries are high and women's presence is low (but on the uptick in Silicon Valley).
Let me digress for one minute and share here a few stats and facts that we women need to consider:
1] Seventy-four percent of STEM workers are male and only 26 percent female.
2] According to U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts with similar education.
3] Of 100 female bachelor students, 12 graduate with STEM major but only three continue to work in STEM fields 10 years after graduation according to research by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
Girls need professional role models, and we applaud the work of so many who are focused on this issue from: Lean In, National Center for Women in Technology, Society of Women Engineers, American Association of University Women, MentorNet, The Huffington Post, Anita Borg Institute, Girl Scouts, growing commitments from corporate America and many more.
Judaism has a clear hierarchy of giving and the highest level is when you help someone achieve self-sufficiency. So that he or she is not dependent economically. That sounds like a good goal for our work here as well.
What if we established levels or pathways of fast-tracking young women and girls in their career? Here are six off the bat:
ONE: Be a Role Model -- Share with a few girls what you do professionally and what you enjoy about your position. Speak to a classroom and share perspective about your experience as a female in the career you selected and what education you needed to get there. How did you lean in and when did you lean out.
TWO: If you work in a corporation, commit to mentoring a few females a year personally through a company sponsored internship program. Look at internships as building your companies human capital pipeline. Can you bring in a "B" player with a goal of getting her to a B+ and then hired? Don't wait for a young woman to land in your email inbox. Go find her. Ask around. Visit your high school Linkedin or Facebook page or call your local community college. See if there is someone green and growing who is looking for her shot in your field and schedule coffee chats or lunches every two weeks or more and make sure she gets face time to learn from at least three key people in your company.
THREE: Join or establish a mentoring program for younger girls in your community. Text them. Email them. Skype them if you can. Google Chat. Create an action plan together on how often you will meet and end goals. Meet them where they are at, and build from there. Progress not perfection, ladies. They live in a different world than we did. Seek to understand and read Unlocking the Generational Codes if you want to get an "A" here.
FOUR: Beyond the summer internship, look at the German apprenticeship program. It's very successful and young people come out with a defined skill over a 12 to 24 month period. Consider teaming up with one in the U.S. Want more diversity and excellent candidates, try YearUp.org and champion young deserving people for skills-based training at your company or a company you know.
FIVE: A village effort. Create a circle of your fav girlfriends or colleagues and bring your mentees and their mentees together with the goal of shared learning and specific professional opportunities for the group. You could get creative here with some "speed networking" or a treat everyone to foot massages after lunch. Set some goals for mentees landing interviews, internships, jobs.
SIX: Take your daughter to work and take your mentee to lunch with the CEO, CHRO or SVP. Take her to meet with a key executive (Stefano model) who is hiring who traditionally wouldn't take the meeting but as your friend, cannot say no. Better yet, take her to that executives home in the calm space of Sunday coffee. A delightful two hours spent with life changing potential for her!
Make it enjoyable. We are talking about two hours, 20 hours or three key emails + espressos with steamed milk in Italy.
Ladies, we can do this and more of it!
...and ask her once she is widely successful in return to do you a favor. To pay it forward and do the same for another young woman, today.