“Men, commit to mentoring women”

Today on LinkedIn, I saw a post from Melinda Gates publicizing Lean In’s #MentorHer message: Men, commit to mentoring women.

I wasn’t aware of this campaign, but think it’s a wonderful answer to the question, “I’m just one person; what can I do?” When we see major imbalances in the tech industry, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and think the problems are too widespread and deeply ingrained for us to really make much difference. But if we can stop and shift our focus outward, and actively seek opportunities to mentor people who are less likely to receive that kind of help, we can make a huge impact in their lives. They are then much better positioned to lend a hand to someone else who could use some help. You never know how far one kind gesture can go, or how many lives it can change for the better.

One day, when I was about 9, a neighbor and family friend called me over to come check out the new computer he had just bought. This was a long time ago in the ‘burbs, and nobody we knew owned a computer, so this was a Big Deal. He briefly explained the hardware and peripherals and how everything was connected, then typed in a simple program and ran it. I was awestruck. You mean, you can make this thing do whatever you want, as long as you understand how to talk to it?? Show me another one! I was hooked forever. Soon I had my own computer, where I spent countless hours learning to program and creating new projects. Later on, I learned how to upgrade my computers, and take them apart and repair them when things went wrong. Thus began my lifelong love of technology, and a successful IT career. My neighbor had no idea at the time that it would be such a life-altering experience for me. I made a point to come back as an adult and let him know just how influential he’d been in my life.

Mentor girls and women, especially girls/women of color, and people from disadvantaged or under-represented groups. It might change someone’s life, and indeed the world, more than you ever thought possible.

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