No matter how many coding initiatives for women and diversity programs are launched, the inescapable fact remains: The tech industry is overloaded with men, especially in the top ranks. It’s an vicious cycle. The more men are hired for top jobs, the more they tend to hire men themselves.
Entrepreneurs Eileen Carey and Lauren Mosenthal believe the best path to gender equality is peer mentorship–that is, mentorship from people at your same skill and career level. So they created Glassbreakers, an online platform that matches women in tech (product managers, software engineers, data scientists, and so on) with peer mentors. It’s a little like online dating for mentors.
“We’ve found that peer mentorship was more helpful to women that we spoke with than mentorship from women 5 to 10 years above you. People your age understand your context better and can help you move forward,” says Carey, the CEO of Glassbreakers.
It doesn’t take much to get started with the service. Users can sign in with LinkedIn, and then Glassbreakers works its magic with an algorithm that takes into account items extracted from the social network, like education background, skills, and past employers. Women who have already signed up will start receiving their first matches in February. Once that happens, they’ll have the opportunity to accept or reject their potential mentors; if two people accept each other, they are invited to connect offline.
“It’s essentially replacing the ‘Oh, I think you guys should meet’ introduction emails or going to offline networking events,” says Mosenthal, the CTO.
Even though the service just launched in late January, there has already been high demand. Some 1,200 women have signed up from all over the world.
In addition to the consumer-facing platform, Glassbreakers is also working on an enterprise version–an internal women’s mentorship platform for companies. Capital One and a handful of big name tech companies have expressed interest. “We hadn’t pitched a single person, and we have had seven companies come to us looking for software solution,” says Mosenthal.
One of the startup’s biggest challenges down the line may be that it’s geared towards women, while the vast majority of the investment community is male. Nonetheless, a number of people have come together to volunteer for Glassbreakers, and the company has received free office space from a San Francisco startup called Prism Skylabs.
Glassbreakers is only for women in tech right now, but the startup plans on expanding to other industries in the future.