The American Lighting Association saw a need to help women in its industry network better. Cutting to the core of the objective helped accelerate the launch of a new mentoring program.
In the male-dominated lighting industry, the American Lighting Association’s Women in Lighting Committee knew that some women might not be comfortable seeking out opportunities to expand their professional network. So this month the committee launched a new Mentor Matching program to provide a platform for women in the lighting industry to connect.
ALA established the Women in Lighting Committee over two years ago, and participants quickly identified networking as a major opportunity for women in the industry.
ALA had planned on rolling out a mentoring program before the pandemic hit, and when the committee recognized an even greater need for women to connect in the absence of in-person events, they simplified their original plan. “We really looked at it and realized: It doesn’t have to be that complicated,” said Women in Lighting cochair Laura Van Zeyl.
Initially, they planned to have women sign up and then connect them with each other based on shared interests—like mentor matchmakers, Van Zeyl said. Instead, they decided to connect women randomly, pair them up for a quarter, and then switch mentors to keep the networking moving and help the women expand their networks over time.
“We want to be the conduit to make connections between women in the industry, but we also want to get out of the way and let relationships form organically,” Van Zeyl said in a press release.
ALA will facilitate a real-time conversation among the women once a month by suggesting conversation topics each week on the Women in Lighting Facebook page and via email. The weekly communications serve two purposes: Each is a reminder to schedule the once-a-month mentor connection, and it helps get the conversation going with an icebreaker.
“Once contact is established, even after the mentorship assignment rotates, that’s one more person to tap when there’s a question or a need. It’s also an opportunity for individuals to introduce a new contact to their existing networks to further expand the reach and value of the program,” Van Zeyl said.