I came across the 1000 Girls 1000 Futures program about two years ago and thought it would be a great way to encourage bright young women to become trailblazers in STEM fields. Working for a Technology company, I often witnessed firsthand how young women lack the confidence of their male peers and would question their skills. Based on my own experience, I imagined this came from constantly being second-guessed by others. I hated this feeling and I hated even more to watch perfectly intelligent women go through the same thing. Thus, I decided to get involved and lead by example. I started off mentoring female recent graduates and quickly realized that role models are needed long before entering the professional space. Therefore, I wanted to be apart of 1000 Girls 1000 Futures to work with a high school student and help instill a sense of self confidence and ambition early on, that would be a force to be reckoned with!
I applied to the program thinking I would be able to share lessons learned and help to inspire from my experiences. What I did not expect was to be inspired and learn so much from my mentee! This was one of the biggest surprises and greatest aspects of the program – it is truly a two way street. Over the past two years I have watched my mentee grow and mature into a confident young woman who seizes every opportunity she can to challenge herself and build her skillset. I have to say, she is honestly one of the most impressive people I have ever known! Her accomplishments are significant and continue to grow. She a stellar academic record balanced between hard sciences and the arts and has been accepted to some of the most prestigious and competitive science programs globally. This has pushed me to work harder by leading new research initiatives on product design and Human Computer Interaction, training new hires and speaking at various Technology and women related conferences and forums. Together, we push each other to be our best selves, stay motivated and realize new potential.
For the most part, I advise my Mentee and work closely with her to build self-confidence, believe in herself to embrace challenges, breakdown her goals and design actionable plans to achieve them. It is important to me that she can track her progress and point to specific examples that make our relationship worthwhile to her. However, it is just as important to constantly praise her so she knows how truly amazing she is. It is imperative that she knows that her achievements are noteworthy and for that she special. She must understand that there is nothing common or ordinary about her intellect, drive and accomplishments, especially at such a young age. In such male dominated fields, it is women that must encourage women so that together we can crush stereotypes, doubts and breakthrough glass ceilings. I can recall so many occasions in which my ideas, work and ambition had been questioned – it is a terrible feeling. Fortunately, I have been able move past those instances with my head held high, but I cannot help but think of how many other women have not been able to do the same. This is a great loss in potential and it must stop. 1000 Girls 1000 Futures has allowed me to make progress towards this, even in small steps.
I encourage other women to get involved with this mentorship program. It is honestly one of the best experiences to help someone develop their talents and check off great milestones along the way. This helps drive excitement and motivation to tackle new and challenging spaces, such as STEM fields. What we sometimes do not realize is how great of an impact some small strides can have on others. I know that my involvement has inspired some friends to take on similar roles at work or through other organizations. Additionally, I sincerely believe that my role, as well as my Mentee’s achievements has served as a bit of motivation for others indirectly. Ultimately, if we want to see more women in STEM fields, we need to show each other and the world, how truly talented we are. We cannot change the world in a day, but collectively, we as women of all ages, can take steps to support and empower each other to set off a chain reaction of inspiration and achievements.
By Melissa E. Ferere
Mentor in 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures