About us and Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is Wāhine Connect?
Wāhine Connect is a programme to support women in the NZ health sector. We run a national mentoring network, and also host webinars and events. We are a registered charity.
The goals of the network are:
- To create communities of women in health to provide peer support in both our professional and personal lives.
- To use our collective resources as a network of women to facilitate career development, and to contribute to the development of a strong wāhine health sector workforce.
We piloted this programme for a 6-month period during 2018 and it was very successful. We are currently planning how we can continue it long-term to provide more support for more women. We will be relaunching Wāhine Connect in February 2019 and will be taking new mentee registrations then.
2. Who created Wāhine Connect and who runs it?
The answers are you and you! It's a fantastic example of a grass-roots, community-driven project.
- The need for this network was identified from a post on the NZ Women in Medicine Facebook page.
- The issues and concerns that make up the mentor and mentee questionnaires were gleaned from the more than 70 messages I recieved about the mentoring project idea.
- The mentors individually volunteered, or were recruited through your specific nominations.
- The questionnaires were piloted by dozens of willing women.
- The resources and contract were compiled by one of you.
- Even the content of this FAQs page was chewed over and reviewed by generous NZ women in health.
This is your network, and its success depends on all of us.
3. Why do women in health need a mentor network?
It's hard to answer this question. But this is what we know:
- There is evidence that professional women may suffer from additional and unique stressors compared to their male counterparts, including those related to raising families, the distribution of domestic duties, and the experience of gender discrimination and unconscious bias. 1-3
- Internationally, women continue to earn less than men. This gender pay gap is true in the health sector too: female doctors are paid less than male doctors, irrespective of specialty, hours worked or age. 4 Women physicians are also less likely to be proportionally represented in positions of leadership and seniority. 5
- New Zealand data show that female doctors are more likely to experience burnout due to work-related stress than male doctors, 6 and to suffer from 'presenteeism' (working when too unwell, fatigued or stressed to be productive). 7
- There is consistent evidence that professional women lack adequate mentors and role models, and may find it particularly difficult to access same-sex mentors, and those in senior positions. 2, 8
That all said - as a community of women in the health sector, we represent a substantial collective resource of experience and knowledge. We can use this resource to support each other both professionally and personally.
- Robinson, G. E. Stresses on women physicians: Consequences and coping techniques. Depress Anxiety. 2003; 17: 180–189.
- Edmunds LD, Ovseiko PV, Shepperd S, et al. Why do women choose or reject careers in academic medicine? A narrative review of empirical evidence. Lancet. 2016; 6736(15).
- Poole, P. Towards equality. Internal Medicine Journal. 2017; 47(1).
- Ly DP, Seabury SA, Jena AB. Differences in incomes of physicians in the United States by race and sex: observational study. BMJ 2016; 353 :i2923
- Department of Health. Women doctors: making a Difference. Report of the Chair of the National Working Group on Women in Medicine, 2009. London: Department of Health.
- ASMS. Tired, Worn-Out and Uncertain: Burnout in the New Zealand Public Hospital Senior Medical Workforce. Wellington: ASMS; 2016.
- ASMS. Superheroes don't take sick leave. Presenteeism in the New Zealand senior medical workforce - a mixed-method study. 2015.
- Curtis A, Eley L, Gray S, Irish B. Women in senior post-graduate medicine career roles in the UK: a qualitative study. JRSM Open. 2017;8(1):2054270416669305.
4. What is a 'mentor', and what is a 'mentee'?
In this context, a 'mentor' is someone who is happy to offer to support to other women with personal or professional issues or concerns. They do not need to be a certain age or stage - just someone who is willing to give back and help other women.
A 'mentee' is someone who is seeking that support, whether it be for formal career development purposes, or for more personal reasons.
5. Who can participate?
Wāhine Connect is open to all women working in the health sector. We have two driving principles:
A. Equitable representation: As a grass-roots project, grown from the ground up, we have the opportunity to ensure Wāhine Connect is an equitable program from the beginning. Specifically, that there is sufficient opportunity for mentorship from women who identify as Māori, Pasifika, and as members of other minority groups.
B. Multi-disciplinary: Wāhine Connect is open to all women in health! There are three reasons for this.
- The evidence around the benefits of team-based care are clear. Multi-disciplinary teams improve quality of care, patient outcomes, and may even reduce the impact of implicit bias. Applying this team-based approach to Wāhine Connect hopes to encourage collaboration between women across the sector. We hope that the network may lead to improvements in understanding that trickle down to benefit the effectiveness of team-based care in clinical work.
- There are women doing incredible work in diverse settings and professions across the health sector. We want to be able to use our human resources as women in health to maximum capacity.
- The health sector workforce is becoming increasingly diverse - ensuring the network is as inclusive as possible allows us to better ensure there are sufficient mentors to support those women who may have more specific needs.
Please note that at this stage we cannot include students - sorry.
6. Are there different types of mentor-mentee relationships?
Yes! We offer two streams of support:
1. Wāhine Connect JOURNEY This is for women who are seeking a one-on-one relationship with a mentor. You will be supported for around 6-months to help you and your mentor connect, and focus on a number of specific issues, concerns or questions. You can meet in person or virtually. As with all mentoring relationships, the mentee is the driver, and is responsible for making contact with the mentor, and organising and driving the agenda and meetings. You will have resources and regular email support from us. Please note - this is not a collegial relationship for the purposes of a professional body.
2. Wāhine Connect JUMP This is for women who want jump in to a ready-made network. It is designed to assist women at a decision-point in their careers or personal lives (e.g. considering changing specialties or direction, family planning, negotiating a contract), and is likely to consist of 1 meeting or phone call with 1 - 3 mentors, acting as ‘key informants’ (i.e. with personal experience with this issue, or knowledge by way of position).
7. I would love to be a mentor but how much time is involved? Is there an option for people with limited time?
On the registration form, you can select the mentoring stream(s) you are willing to participate in. The JUMP stream is perfect if you can’t take on a longer-term relationship at present.
There is also a place where you can mention any restrictions on your availability (e.g. “keep me on the database, but sorry I can’t be a mentor at this time”).
Note that you may not be matched to a mentee in a given matching cohort (we aim to perform matching 3-monthly), and of course, you have the option to sweetly decline a mentoring option if and when you are matched.
The table below is a guideline only, but gives an idea of the approximate minimum time commitment anticipated for mentors and mentees for each stream. Feel free to meet or communicate more often! Please also take a look at our LOWDOWN document for more information on expectations for mentors and mentees.
Note: we ask all mentors and mentees to complete a short evaluation survey at the termination of each mentor-mentee relationship.
8. What are my obligations as a mentee?
This depends on your mentoring stream.
Wāhine Connect JUMP means you need to prepare for multiple one-off meetings, so pretty low-key.
Wāhine Connect JOURNEY should be more considered. We encourage mentees and mentors to define the goals and expectations, including the time commitment and duration of the relationship.
Mentees in this stream - take some time to think about your priorities, and have realistic expectations about the support a mentor can provide. This is a time-limited arrangement (usually around 6 months), so it is a good idea to make the most of your opportunity and be prepared for your meetings and sessions.
Overall, the Wāhine Connect mentee is the driver in the mentoring relationship. You are responsible for contacting the mentor, setting up the meetings, and following up on any tasks or action points. Please read the Wāhine Connect LOWDOWN document here for more info on your obligations as a mentee.
9. I love it! How do I join up?
Great! We are thrilled to have you on board. Go to Join Us to complete the mentor and mentee registration forms, you can select the mentoring option that appeals to you.
10. The questionnaires are personal - how do you keep my information private?
Your confidentiality and privacy is hugely important.
- Please note Wāhine Connect is collecting your information to assist in providing services for mentors and mentees only, or for any other use that you authorize. Wāhine Connect will keep this information within the confines of the program, and will not reveal personal information publicly or to a third party (unless required to by law).
- All who have access to this data will sign a confidentiality agreement. Wāhine Connect will take all reasonable steps to ensure the personal information it holds is protected against loss, access, use or modification other than with the authority of Wāhine Connect. Wāhine Connect may aggregate data and information in a way that does not personally identify you, and use this to understand mentor/mentee needs, for research or for outreach purposes.
- Under the Privacy Act 1993, you have rights of access to and correction of the personal information held by us. As no data transmission over the internet can be guaranteed to be completely secure, we cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information you transmit or receive through this site. These activities are conducted at your own risk.
- In real speak, your information is kept completely private, on a secure database. All members of the matching panel sign a confidentiality agreement.
Mentors - we will not disclose your familiarity with certain issues to potential mentees. Mentees - your information is also not disclosed to mentors, unless specifically indicated on the registration form.
11. Can I change my information?
Of course. Once you register, you will receive an email with a link. You can use this to log in at any time to update your data.
12. Hang on - what if I already know who I want my mentor to be (and they have agreed). Can I have your support even if you don’t match me?
Of course! We are super flexible here at WC. Simply go to the mentee link, register, and indicate on the survey that you already have your mentor sorted. Ask your mentor to do the same. We will then send you an email to let you know next steps.
13. So - I submitted my form, now what happens?
The process looks something like this:
At this stage, we will aim to take registrations and match mentors and mentees every 3 months - a small panel uses the information from your forms to perform matches as best as able.
Mentors - you will be contacted asking if you are still willing and available to take on a mentoring opportunity.
Mentees - you will receive an email providing information about the mentoring stream, and the expectations of the program. Once a relationship has been accepted by both parties, you will be linked together by email.
14. What if I have issues with my mentor or mentee?
If you are having technical difficulties (eg. incorrect email address, no response to your emails), please get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org
If the relationship isn't working out, don't fret, we are here to help. Again, please get in touch with us and we can offer support for you to resolve the issue, or help you terminate the relationship if neccessary.
15. This is an amazing programme! How can I be more involved?
I'm so pleased you asked! Please contact me if you are willing to help further. In particular, if you are open to:
- Being a mentor. Don't feel like you don't know enough! We all have so much to offer, and it may be that what you 'know' is not what is needed. Wāhine are looking for support from colleagues for an array of issues - the more mentors we have on our database, the richer the support we can provide as a network.
- Local coordination. Coffee in a Christchurch cafe? Wine night in Whangarei? Run along the waterfront in New Plymouth? Start a WhatsApp group for mums on maternity leave in Wellington? The more opportunities we have to meet each other and connect, the stronger the network will become.
- Financial support. You can donate to our fabulous cause! We are a registered charity and exist completely on donations. Although we do the emails, website maintenance, resource development, matching and mentoring ourselves, we do have ongoing administrative and technical costs. Please consider donating to the Wāhine Connect Trust, we would also love to discuss the option of more formal/ongoing sponsorship.
- Feedback. This is a programme that has grown from a need defined by women in medicine, and is delivered by women living and breathing these issues. Your feedback will help it grow and evolve. Please let us know the positive and negative, what works and what doesn't. Be gentle! Wāhine Connect is run entirely by volunteers.
And finally...please tell others about us! You can use the twitter, facebook and email buttons below to spread the Wāhine Connect joy :-)