SWiG Mentoring Scheme
In founding a professional network within the wider BSG, the primary purpose of Supporting Women in Gastroenterology (SWiG) is to define the key problems of recruitment of women to Gastroenterology and to promote the need to encourage women to step forward to senior leadership roles in their careers and in the Society itself. 'Stepping forward' is what Sheryl Sandberg calls to 'lean in' in her book of the same title (Lean In 2013 published by the Random House Group: ISBN no. 9780753541630). It is not a call for positive discrimination on behalf of the BSG, but rather a recognition that Gastroenterology as a specialty is significantly 'behind the curve' in terms of absolute numbers of women and their representation within the Society.
Mentoring is already widely used in both academic and clinical medicine and science to develop the careers of junior and mid career academics and doctors, especially in the United States. It's been shown to be an especially helpful intervention to nurture, retain and develop under-represented groups. The principle is simple – the mentor, having undertaken some training, helps the mentee to 'maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be'. In 2015, we decided to pilot a mentoring scheme for female members of the SWiG network, in order to address the gender gap in senior roles in gastroenterology in the UK.
Whilst the mentorship pilot scheme, developed through SWIG, includes female mentees only as its trial group, the mentors (men and women) are being trained in this role with the longer term view, that if successful this scheme will be developed as a membership benefit for the wider society, men and women alike.
For the pilot of the scheme, we looked to recruit 40 mentees. The scheme was designed to support early and mid career female gastroenterologists, especially those in the 5 years peri-CCT. However, women at any level of training or seniority were eligible to apply.
Our longer term vision is to encourage the active recruitment of the best and most talented medics to our specialty, (clinicians and academics) and to optimise their professional development and support through BSG membership. The secondary benefit to the BSG of this initiative, is a demonstration of new ways of working within the Society using a more inclusive network model, as opposed to the more traditional committee structure.