Mentoring program looks to advance women engineers, managers

Saturday, March 8, is International Women's Day. ABB recently launched a pilot mentoring program in the US aimed at advancing women.

Engineering, utilities, oil and gas, manufacturing—each of these sectors has a reputation for being male-dominated and most are also experiencing a major demographic shift as companies struggle to replace retiring workers.  ABB operates in all of them, and the company faces the same challenges as the customers it serves.

ABB has a variety of learning and development programs, but in the US a new initiative seeks to address the talent pipeline and gender balance issues at the same time.

“It started in April of 2013,” explains Catherine Dimmitt, Learning and Development Manager for ABB in the US. “Our diversity committee came to People Development looking to start a pilot mentoring program that would identify and promote female professionals, and they wanted to roll it out quickly.”

The result was a program launched in October that paired thirty female professionals with male and female mentors. Mentors and mentees agreed on a working relationship “contract” which defined their expectations and objectives for the relationship over the course of their year-long journey. The pilot is scheduled to wrap up in October 2014.

“It’s definitely not a plain vanilla program,” says mentee Caroline Baron, who works in ABB’s Discreet Automation & Motion division. “The mentors are really committed, but one of the best things about the program is the camaraderie among the mentees.”

That sentiment is shared by Scarlett Harrod, whose graduate degree and six years of experience put her at the more seasoned end of the range of mentees.

“The enthusiasm and professionalism of both the mentors and the mentees is impressive,” she says.

The initiative overall has received positive reviews from mentors and mentees alike, according to Dimmitt. Once the pilot finishes, there will be a review that will focus, among other things, on how to scale the program to include Canada and Mexico as well as broaden participation.

“This is only the beginning.”

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About the author

Bob Fesmire

Bob Fesmire is a Content Manager at ABB, based in Cary, North Carolina. He has written more than 150 articles and white papers on a variety of topics including energy efficiency, industrial automation and big data. In addition to his work at ABB, Bob is also the co-author of Energy Explained, a non-technical introduction to all aspects of the energy industry.
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