The BES Women in Ecology Mentoring Scheme Needs YOU

By Dr Zenobia Lewis, University of Liverpool and mentor for the Women in Ecology mentoring scheme.

Time and time again academics cite the role of mentors in helping them progress in their careers, and mentoring has been shown to be particularly formative for women. I myself am extremely lucky in that I have had brilliant mentors guiding and supporting me throughout my academic career. In some cases, I’m not sure they realised they were mentoring me, in others it is only with the wisdom of hindsight that I realised they mentored me. Thank goodness, then, there are increasing numbers of formal mentoring schemes available, not least including the BES Mentoring Scheme for Women in Ecology.

Recognition of the importance of mentors in my own career progression, was one of the reasons that I applied for the first time to be a mentor on the scheme last summer. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I think I assumed my role would mainly be advising my mentee in career progression. Possibly there would be some discussion of work-life balance. Maybe more ‘controversial’ topics such as imposter syndrome would come up.

In fact, the experience has been all the above, and so much more. The topics of conservation covered with my mentee have ranged from the philosophical and psychological, through navigating conferences and writing publications, to party planning and our favourite books. Sometimes our conversations have felt like a chat with a friend (which I now consider her to be). Sometimes they have been more challenging. Our chats have been deeply personal at times, purely practical at others. Usually I find myself still musing on some of things we talked about days later.

I can’t speak for my mentee obviously, but the whole experience has been extremely rewarding for me. Yes, there is that golden glow associated with helping someone. Yes, it’s reaffirming that I have reached a point in my career when I am able to support someone in this manner. But most importantly, thanks to my mentee I feel that I’ve learnt so much about myself, how I got here, and what I need to do better in future. Of course, every mentor-mentee relationship is different, as I’m sure yours will be if you join the scheme. But I am confident that the experience will be beneficial to both parties.

You don’t have to be female to be a BES mentor. You can be based anywhere in the world. You just need to have a minimum of five years’ experience working in the ecology sector. You apply here, which only takes ten minutes: http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/learning-and-resources/career-development/mentoring-opportunities/.

Pay it forward, apply to be a BES mentor.