Mentoring is a proven and powerful driver for career development. It also plays an instrumental role in retaining women in science careers.
To begin their AWARD journey, the 2009 fellows and mentors attended the mentoring orientation workshops (MOWs) in September and October in Mombasa, Kenya. The workshops were attended by 134 participants, representing ten AWARD countries. They included AWARD Fellows and Mentors, staff and partners. The workshops were facilitated by Phil and Normala Merry from the Philip Merry Consulting Group.
AWARD offers two years of mentoring to BSc-level fellows and one year of mentoring for the post-MSc and post-PhD fellows. The first step of the fellowship is pairing each fellow with a mentor — a more senior professional, carefully chosen to match the fellow’s area of expertise and personal goals. Mentors are selected by Dorothy Mukhebi, AWARD mentoring coordinator, in consultation with the fellows.
In their second fellowship year, post-MSc and post-PhD fellows will pass on their knowledge by mentoring junior women scientists in their institutions, which also provides an opportunity for personal leadership experience.
During the MOW, the fellows were introduced to the basket of AWARD opportunities and resources they can access over the next two years. The role and expectations of fellows and mentors were clarified and they got an introduction to monitoring and evaluation. The MOW also served as a networking launch pad for all the participants. The AWARD male mentors were at home at the workshop. They demonstrated their firm commitment to supporting women scientists. They quickly adopted their new nickname, SNAGs, which stands for Sensitive New Age Guys.
By the end of the workshop, participants were energized — the growth in the group was evident within such a short time. “The enthusiasm to learn was infectious,” says Dorothy. “The mentors were equally passionate about what AWARD stands for.”
Through their interactions during the workshops and follow-up communication, fellows and mentors established working relationships, and initiated a supportive network among themselves and with other partners, including AWARD staff.
Dr. Felistus Chipungu, an AWARD Fellow from Malawi, is keen to share forward the information gained from the mentoring workshop. “I appreciate what AWARD is doing; I will not hoard the information gained but will ensure it goes to other people,” says Felistus.