Two young women are smiling while talking to each other about mentorship on a video call.
Amy O'Reilly and Janice O Gorman. Image: Luke Maxwell/Siliconrepublic.com

The difference a mentor can make to young women in STEM

30 Apr 2021379 Views

Amy O’Reilly and Janice O Gorman share their experiences of early-career mentorship and support at Johnson & Johnson.

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While a gender imbalance still exists in STEM, the number of women in the industry is on the rise and new generations are looking at careers in this area.

One thing that can help encourage more young women into the sector is mentorship and the idea that ‘if you can see it, you can be it’. That’s certainly something that University College Cork student Amy O’Reilly and Johnson & Johnson product release specialist Janice O Gorman have experienced.

O’Reilly is currently taking part in a scholarship programme under Johnson & Johnson’s WiSTEM2D initiative, which was developed to help overcome the gender imbalance in STEM by supporting women entering the industry. O Gorman, who now works at the company, is a graduate of the scholarship programme.

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O’Reilly said her favourite thing about the scholarship is the mentorship support. “I think it is really important for young girls and women to have inspirational mentors and individuals to engage with and aspire to become.”

And the issue isn’t that women don’t want to work in STEM, O Gorman added. She said there has been an uptick in women choosing STEM careers and courses in Ireland year on year. “But then we’re also entering into the leaky pipeline where this talent isn’t sustained or supported,” she said.

This leaky pipeline is a barrier to STEM becoming a more inclusive field. “Because fewer women work and study in STEM, the field can seem more exclusionary and male-dominated,” O Gorman said. “So there needs to be more strong and visible role models available and accessible to young girls and women.”

So what does a mentor actually do? For O’Reilly, her mentor helped her set specific goals, discuss interview styles and techniques and learn more about the different career paths she could take.

O Gorman’s mentor helped her in this aspect too. “I did pharmaceutical industrial chemistry, so I thought my career would always involve me being in a lab with the safety coat and goggles on,” she explained. “But this programme helped reassure me that there were opportunities out there – most I hadn’t even heard of or thought would be available to me.

“I was able to build a network of both working professionals and peers. It was inspiring to see so many women succeed in their field with a background that was just like mine. It really helped my confidence.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa was appointed careers editor in January 2021.

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