WASHINGTON (NNS) -- A pilot initiative, known as the NavyWomen eMentor Leadership Program, has gained momentum, exceeded expectations and helped build productive relationships for females in the fleet.
"We were somewhat surprised at the number of women who immediately signed up," said Lt. Hope Brill, deputy director, Navy Women's Policy Program. "It became quickly apparent that this was not only going to be popular, but that if it was successful, we'd have to find ways to expand access."
Upon entering the one-year pilot program, participants took part in customized Web-based matching to establish relationships. They then were able to access electronic communication capability, newsletters, mentoring guidance, references and other online tools with which to develop those relationships.
The pilot program began with an open registration period in October 2008. While initially there were only 500 slots available, that number rapidly increased to about 800 (total funded capacity).
"Whole ships have contacted us wanting to gain access for their female Sailors," said Brill. "In fact, the surface warfare enterprise recently set up its own eMentoring program to accommodate the great desire to take part in this kind of mentoring."
Women who signed up for the ementoring pilot were able to sign up as mentors and/or proteges. They could establish more than one relationship, and many have established several. These relationships are highly flexible because of the electronic matching and communication the pilot program allows.
"Online mentoring allows people from all around the globe to be matched in new and creative ways for mentoring relationships never before possible," said Stephanie Goebel, director of AcademyWomen, the nonprofit professional development organization managing the pilot for the Navy. "[This] reduces or eliminates some of the barriers posed by differences in rank, age, race and other [factors]."
"I have had quite a few [positive experiences] so far," said Chief Cryptologic Technician Christine Cots, who enjoys the global nature of the relationships. "[It] is a wonderful feeling to know you can talk to someone who does or does not share your geographical location but can understand what you go through each day."
Participants surveyed about their impressions of the program indicate that they are using it to find women role models and to connect with other women in their enterprise or community. It has offered a forum within which to gain assistance in dealing with complex work-life balance issues. Career guidance from others who understand how gender affects an individual's situation and the ability to establish mentoring relationships outside of the chain of command are also valued.
The Navy recognizes mentoring as a necessary component to job satisfaction and performance. eMentoring is just one possibility in the mentoring continuum in which all Sailors must engage for their personal and professional success. This continuum starts with traditional required forms such as periodic counseling, evaluations/fitness reports and career counseling sessions. However, mentoring does not need to occur solely within the confines of chain of command, and that may be one of the keys to the success of the eMentoring pilot.
"With the experience and knowledge that I have to share, it's been a pleasure to have been able to chat with some of the young ladies of today's Navy who...just need someone to talk to on the inside - and outside," said Cox. "Someone who understands the Navy... [but] outside her chain of command so the conversation flows easier [and] there is less fear of retribution."
Other mentoring mechanisms include participation in affinity groups such as the Chief Petty Officers Association, the National Society of Black Engineers or the Federal Asian Pacific American Council; formal and informal interactions with peers; social networking groups and enterprise- or community-sponsored personal and professional development opportunities.
"Mentoring is a foundational tool for anyone striving to achieve goals and reach their full potential, especially in a challenging military environment," said Goebel, who speaks from experience as a member of the first group of women to graduate from the Naval Academy. "The eMentor Leadership Program is the first of its kind and represents a shifting paradigm in the military, one that reinforces the value and importance of diversity in leadership and experience."
There are more than 250 officers and nearly 550 enlisted women enrolled in the Navy Women eMentoring Program pilot. The majority are active duty, with about 15 percent Reserve Sailors and some recent retirees. While the pilot still has several months to run, the Navy has started looking at how it can both increase access for women and eventually establish a Navywide eMentoring capability.
For more information on affinity groups visit, www.npc.navy.mil/CommandSupport/Diversity/Affinity+Groups/ and for information on other Women's Policy Program initiatives visit, www.npc.navy.mil/AboutUs/BUPERS/WomensPolicy/.
For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel - Diversity Directorate, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp-diversity/.