Want to Help Close The Gender Gap in the Tech Industry? Mentor a Future Engineer.

As a software engineer, I have been part of a small minority of women engineers at every company I’ve worked. In fact, in one of my former companies I was the only female engineer. Combined with the lack of women in leadership positions, finding female mentors and role models has been very difficult. This lack of diversity in the technology industry, in Silicon Valley and beyond, motivated me to get involved.

Recently, engineers at BrightRoll connected with Hackbright Academy, an engineering school for women. Their mission is to increase female representation in engineering and technology through education, mentorship, and community. Over the last 25 years, the number of women in fields like medicine, law and physical sciences has increased. But in the computer science field, the number of women has decreased. In response, Hackbright created a model that has proven to bring women back to the field.

At BrightRoll, our Talent Community looks for opportunities to increase our own gender diversity. They also look for ways that engineers can volunteer and grow professionally. Hackbright was a perfect fit. Today, I’m one of nine BrightRoll engineers involved in the program.

For male engineers, the exposure to mentorship opportunities like Hackbright can help spread awareness of gender imbalance in STEM fields. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math). That awareness helps male engineers serve as allies.

“In the last six months, since I started working for BrightRoll, I’ve learned so much about the gender imbalances in STEM,” says Tom Fitch, one of my fellow engineering mentors. “Over all my time in software engineering, I’d never really noticed the problem, which is clearly part of the problem. Hackbright is offering women an awesome opportunity, and I feel lucky to be part of that.”

By mentoring female engineers, we can help open the tech industry to broader, more diverse backgrounds and perspectives. This is crucial to our industry’s success. According to this study from Illuminate Ventures, companies with female leaders generally achieve superior financial results.

Additionally, this article from McKinsey & Company demonstrates that diverse teams are more innovative, creative, and productive. Technology has massive social impact, and it is shaping our world. Less women in technology means less innovation, and products that poorly reflect their user bases.

Mentoring also has benefits for the mentors. I’ve found it has increased my sense of purpose, and helped me to develop leadership skills. Mentors learn to be active listeners, solve communication challenges, and give respectful feedback. I also love the fact that I can help women with my professional technical experience, and can strengthen my communication and interpersonal skills.

Lastly, it has helped my team of engineers become more open to asking questions. As Thom Blake, another BrightRoll mentor, puts it: “In Bay Area tech, we’ve developed this terrible tendency to be overconfident… It’s important to turn this off while in mentor mode. Say ‘I don’t know’ and demonstrate how to get help… Hackbright is a great place for this, since it’s an environment refreshingly void of machismo.”

Participating in programs like Hackbright is a great way to increase diversity in engineering, and to develop your own skills. If you’re interested in becoming an engineering mentor, check out Hackbright’s website.

This article first appeared in BrightRoll’s blog.