Research has shown that young people get a lot from mentors—self-confidence, positive attitudes towards school, better social skills, feelings of self-worth and even stronger relationships with their parents.
A 2013 review of the literature(pdf) on mentoring, with a focus on Alberta, shows that for girls in particular, mentoring has positive effects on their personal achievements, career aspirations and builds a sense of community.
This is particularly important in science and engineering, where women are under-represented. The unique talents of women are crucial to innovation and growth of the science and engineering sectors, so we all benefit from a brighter future. Research suggests unconscious gender biases and a lack of prominent female role models in science continue to discourage girls from fully participating in the field. Cybermentor strives to change this, by empowering girls to make a world of difference.
Online mentoring has been proven to be just as effective as talking on the phone or face-to-face conversations. It also reduces the intimidation factor for girls, making them feel more comfortable asking questions. The online format also removes geographic, accessibility and socio-economic barriers to participating. Any girl across Alberta can participate—all she needs is access to the Internet once a week during the school year.
Every year, Cybermentor surveys our mentors and participants. The data demonstrates the program is consistently a beneficial experience for the girls and women who participate, and it positively influences girls’ interests and decisions to pursue science and engineering careers.
The Cybermentor 2014 Annual Report is available upon request.
Cybermentor launched in 2001, under the name “SCIberMENTOR”, when a professor in the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary, Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, (now the president of the university), thought girls might become more interested in pursuing science and engineering if they could exchange regular emails with women working in the fields.
Operating continuously every year since, Cybermentor has grown to more than 3,000 girls and their mentors in 70 communities across Alberta. It’s one of the largest programs of its kind in Canada and the model for a program in Germany.
The collaboration between the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta and many partner organizations is supported by generous donors and tireless volunteers.