WOMID consists of four key elements: mentoring, bridging, networking and sharing.
Mentoring has a widely varied interpretation depending on the situation and context. At WOMID, mentoring refers simply to a more experienced or knowledgeable person providing guidance and personal or professional development to a less experienced or knowledgeable person in an area of expertise.
In the case of WOMID, the ‘area of expertise’ is experience working in international development, whether in practice on the ground, through policy development, or research. More experienced professionals provide mentoring for early career academics such as PhDs and post-doctoral researchers (and eventually, early career practitioners too). The early stage of an academic career comes with the challenges related to immersion in academic debates surrounding specific international development topics, while often simultaneously working on the ground with development programmes and/or with people involved in development issues. Grappling between these two worlds generates some unique requirements, and we believe that learning from the life and professional experiences of those who have a higher vantage point in the development field can provide a grounding and supportive environment, and help meet these requirements.
The benefits of mentoring have been widely applauded (Beltman & Schaeben, 2012; Dziczkowski, 2013; Ghosh & Reio Jr, 2013). However, there are limited mentoring opportunities specifically targeted towards female early career academics, especially in the complex field of international development. In facilitating a mentoring relationship between early career academics and practitioners through WOMID, we anticipate the following benefits:
- build confidence;
- gain a wider and more applied perspective;
- an enhanced understanding of the ‘applied’ relevance of their own research;
- career advice; and
- extensive networks.
- access to cutting-edge research;
- benefiting through self-reflection and the opportunity to share experiences for the benefit of others;
- forge strong links with academic scholars and institutions; and
- build potential for future collaboration.
We also envisage that the mentor/mentee designation will evolve over time into a reciprocal learning relationship, and may in many cases become more ‘peer-to-peer’.
The WOMID mentoring process is pretty simple. Whether joining as a mentee or mentor, WOMID will try to match you with someone that fulfils the needs you have. When you register, you will be asked to rank your preference in what characteristics your mentor/mentees have i.e. area of expertise, geographical location, language, sector etc. We will then do our best to find someone as high up your preference list as possible.
We recommend that mentees ‘meet’ with their mentors once a quarter/academic term whether in person if in the same location, or over Skype/Google hangout/Facetime if not. It is important to recognise that the mentors are not there for intense pastoral care but for personal and professional development. WOMID has guidelines on the mentee/mentor relationship which can be found here.
It is increasingly acknowledged that there is a gap in communication and information sharing between academia and international development practice, and that in order to create lasting and effective solutions to many of the world’s problems, the two areas need to align and work more closely together (for a more detailed discussion on this, see a previous LSE Impact Blog here). WOMID has been developed with this challenge in mind and hopes to help bridge this gap by linking academics and practitioners in order to learn and share from each other, and to build a hub through which this two-way exchange can continue and grow beyond the formal mentoring process.
In addition, the international aspect of WOMID provides south-south and south-north partnerships that are still, in our experience, relatively lacking in international development. We hope that WOMID will also help to bridge cross-cultural exchange, create transnational opportunities, and challenge perceived wisdoms on the direction of knowledge and power flows in international development.
A central online community hub, and both online and offline events will create a supportive and professional network for all involved in WOMID. The forum will be accessible to all members to use for discussions, questions, and the sharing of opportunities. Events will be organised for group discussions, regional hubs around sectors or geographical foci, as well as informal social events. These will provide opportunities for all WOMID members to get to know each other outside of the mentoring pairing and to build lasting relationships. We strongly believe that there is a real need for women working in international development to have a friendly space for networking and socialising opportunities, which will allow them to develop supportive and useful connections, boost self-confidence in professional contexts, and learn from each other.
Through a widely accessible and active blog, WOMID will provide a space for sharing research findings, professional experiences, and reflections on international development as well as the WOMID mentoring experience itself. There will be regular posts from mentors and mentees across the world active in all sectors of international development and all stages of their careers, along with more targeted pieces on topical international development issues, and more exploratory posts driven by WOMID member-submitted questions.
Through all of the above, WOMID will share experiences and reflections across sectors and cultures, experiences and networks. By sharing the publicly-accessible blog on social media outlets, WOMID will also be reaching non-members and others in the international development field.