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  • culmegan

Women Worth Watching in Leadership - On Female Mentorship

I was honored to be named a 2023 Woman Worth Watching in Leadership by Diversity Profiles Magazine. As part of the profile, I was asked to write a short essay about a topic I care about and wanted to highlight. In true indecisive fashion, I couldn't pick between two topics, so I wrote two essays. Below are the thoughts I collected about the importance of female mentorship on professional development, highlighting how many women have impacted my career and how I hope to do the same for others.

For me, “having it all” was never off the table. My mom is a successful aerospace engineer who worked full-time while raising two children. The example she set for me shattered many of the traditional barriers to entry into STEM. There was never a doubt in my mind that a woman could excel in math and science disciplines, pursue their interests, and have a family, all at the same time.  

As I developed, both personally and professionally, I recognize the impact that many female mentors had in pushing me to be who and where I am today.  My undergraduate research professor introduced me to the intersection of power systems and cybersecurity, sparking an interest that I have pursued ever since. My first manager at INL impressed me with her confident leadership and her ability to find tasks where I could learn and be successful, growing my confidence and my expertise. Other formal mentorship programs have paired me with women who have taught me about career development, education paths, and work-life balance. Having this guidance as a mentee has helped me make important life decisions. 

I strongly believe that the role these women have played in my life has been significant in my journey, and that the role of female mentors overall is critical to career development for women. These women have encouraged me, mentored me, inspired me, and challenged me. As role models, they have shown me more possibilities than I ever could have dreamed for myself, but also inspired me to be creative with my own ambitions. Female role models set an example for what is possible for women. They demonstrate the behaviors and mindsets needed to be successful in a field, and they lift up women around them. These impacts are not limited to people I look up to; meaningful lessons are learned from peer-to-peer mentoring as well. Peers serve as confidantes, teammates, and friends, reinforcing that we are not alone in our journeys. I have also had incredible male supervisors, coworkers, and peers along the way. Though their guidance and support has been positive and influential, it cannot replace having someone more aligned with your identity demonstrating what success can look like. 

Recognizing the importance of female mentors in my life has encouraged met to seek opportunities to engage in formal and informal mentoring, or even just visibility, hoping that other young engineers find value in my experiences the same way I have from my mentors. I strive and am dedicated to taking ownership of my contributions, recognize those of others, and lead by example for the next generation of women in engineering. 

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