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Home » Women in STEM » Empowering women with mentorships and leadership programmes

Gail Cooper

AVP Product Management, Unum

Sarah Adderley

Program Manager, Unum

Companies can improve female representation in STEM fields through community-based initiatives, mentorships and leadership programmes that help foster career progression.

Supporting female progression in STEM careers starts early, explains Gail Cooper, AVP product management at Unum Ireland. Exposing girls at school to STEM fields can increase awareness of tech careers and help deconstruct old-fashioned stereotypes. “Seeing is believing. It’s important to talk to girls at schools so they can see what career opportunities are available,” says Cooper. “As well as talks at local schools, we invite students to our office to see and feel what it’s like to be a woman in technology.”

Joining a tech company

The interview process can help the job seeker determine if a company is an ideal fit for their professional goals. It also acts as an opportunity to better understand the company’s values. “The onboarding process at Unum was very robust,” says Sarah Adderley, program manager at Unum. “That made me want the job even more. They knew what they wanted and were interviewing me as much for my skill set as to see how I would fit into the company. That translated to me as very thorough, very detailed, yet really welcoming too.”

Seeing is believing. It’s important to talk to girls at schools so they can see what career opportunities are available.

Gail Cooper

Finding mentors

The support of a mentor can help mentees learn new skills, gain confidence, achieve goals and expand their professional networks. The company offer a global internal mentor scheme that allows employees to pick a mentor based on the skills they want to learn. “I’ve had mentors since the minute I started. It’s a part of my career,” says Cooper. “It’s always been based on specific areas that I want help with and I’ve developed good relationships with my mentors.”

A supportive workforce can also help career progression through sharing insights and expertise in different STEM areas. “The people I work with most definitely moulded my career and my enjoyment in the tech area,” says Adderley.

Women in leadership roles

Despite changes in the tech industry, women are underrepresented in leadership positions in STEM. Internal leadership programmes can help address the gender imbalance and accelerate female STEM career progression. For example, Unum’s leadership programmes help employees step into those senior roles and are available to anyone who is interested. “There’s a huge amount of growth and opportunity here,” says Cooper. “If you’re willing to put yourself out there and put yourself out of your comfort zone, the opportunities are up for grabs.”

Unum is a leading employee benefits provider that offers expert health and wellbeing support, and financial protection through the workplace. 

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