Topics

How WILMA Works

How does WILMA work?

More detailed information about how WILMA works is available if you click on the HowTo page. Briefly, WILMA is a self-service site through which women in linguistics can find a mentor or mentee for a one-on-one mentoring partnership, or join a group of people with similar concerns who agree to function as a co-mentoring or support group. You register by filling in a form on this site with information about your current professional status, professional needs and interests. Your information is posted to a list of registered mentees or mentors, like a professional version of an "X seeking Y" advertisement, with the exception that the postings will not be anonymous (names and affiliations are listed). You will also choose a password at this point (be sure to remember it, because you will need it to log in to the site in the future). Once you submit the questionnaire, you will have access to postings for the mentoring arrangement(s) you requested in your questionnaire. Your own information will also be posted on the site for other registered users to read. WILMA is a self-service site, which means that all steps in the process are initiated by users, and all tasks are carried out automatically by the system.

How do I get a mentoring partner?

Once you have registered, click Login, and you will see a box where you can type in your password. Entering your password will take you to the menu page, which gives you several choices.

One is the opportunity to see listings that other people have posted. If you are looking for a mentor, then you can go to the list of mentor postings, and by reading through them, decide if you would like to ask one of these people to be your mentor. It's up to you to evaluate whether you think the information in a posting suggests that its contributor might be a good match for you. If you decide to invite someone to be your mentoring partner, click on the "Contact" button to the right of the entry you have chosen. WILMA will then send an automated message to the person you selected to let her know that you've expressed interest in forming a mentoring arrangement with her.

The way WILMA is organized is symmetrical in the sense that women can enroll to be either mentors or mentees. There are separate mentor and mentee lists, and theoretically, a mentee could contact a mentor, or a mentor could contact a mentee. That is, if there are no postings that interest you, you can keep visiting WILMA until you find one that you want to respond to, and/or wait for someone else to contact you. In practice, however, we suspect that women enrolling to be mentors will be more likely to wait to be contacted than to actively seek mentees. There might be a variety of reasons for this, including the mentor's time constraints, and the fact that the need situation is asymmetrical (mentees probably need mentors more than mentors need to be mentors). For this reason, while it's okay for anyone enrolled in WILMA to invite someone else either to be a mentee or a mentor, the default assumption is that women wanting a mentor will have to proactively find and contact one themselves. (We can imagine a scenario in which a mentor might contact a prospective mentee if the senior woman sees a posting from someone she knows and has a cordial relationship with, and decides to follow up. To some extent successful mentoring relationships, like any other relationship, depend on interpersonal dynamics, and they usually work best between people who know and like one another.)

How will contact be made?

To indicate your interest in joining a group or entering into a mentoring partnership, click the "Contact" button to the right of the relevant posting. WILMA will then send an automated message to the selected party, indicating that contact has been requested, and telling her the name, affiliation, and email address of the person initiating the contact (yours). Your prospective partner or group organizer will respond directly to you, saying whether or not she is able to accept your request. Please note that there are many reasons why a given participant might not be able to accept an invitation to enter into a particular mentoring partnership, and this shouldn't be taken personally by someone who is turned down. Also note that the first direct contact between the parties is made not by the initiator, but by the woman invited.

In the reverse situation, where someone selects you as a potential mentoring partner, please note that they will not (or at least should not!) contact you directly. Instead, you will be sent an automated message informing you of the requested match, and offering you the opportunity to contact the initiator to (i) negotiate details of the proposed match, or (ii) decline the match. If you decide that you'd like to pursue the invitation by discussing the details with the initiator, just send a message confirming your acceptance to the initiator. If you are unable to accept, you should send a message letting her know that she should request another partner. The responsibility for making the direct contact is up to you, as the invited party.

WILMA's role in acting as a "go between" in the first stage of making arrangements is completely automated. We want you to know that while this might initially seem a bit impersonal, that isn't our intention: there are actually a number of good reasons for doing it this way. The primary reason we've established this indirect way of making contact, though, is to protect people's privacy as much as possible.

Please remember that sidestepping this mechanism (i.e. contacting someone directly) would not only be disrespectful of the other's privacy, it would also be considered an abuse of WILMA's system.

What if I am contacted directly by a potential mentoring partner?

This would not be acceptable, for the reasons given in the last section. We suggest that you simply not respond to a direct contact. If the person should continue to send you unwanted messages, contact the webmaster, and we will deal with it (also see the item on abuse).

What is a co-mentoring group?

Co-mentoring arrangements are small groups of women with similar interests and concerns, who agree to form a network to communicate among themselves about the topics they wish to discuss. This arrangement combines elements of a discussion list with elements of peer counseling. Members form a group list in the address books on their own computers, and send messages to the entire group. (Note that this is not a public discussion list, but a private list run entirely by the members of the group.) While one person clearly has to take the initiative in starting a co-mentoring group (see the next item for more on this), it doesn't necessarily have to have a leader, unless that's something the initiator specifically includes in the initial description of the group. Co-mentoring groups have some different advantages from one-on-one mentoring. Sometimes in a one-on-one mentoring partnership, for example, one party might get busy and not be able to respond to a question immediately. In a co-mentoring situation, the larger number of members increases the likelihood that someone, if not everyone, will have time to respond.

It might sometimes happen that if the members of a co-mentoring group are all at approximately the same career stage, a question might arise that can't be answered by a member of the group. If members have individual mentors in addition to belonging to the group, they could raise the question with their mentors, and then report back to the group.

How do I join a co-mentoring group?

There are two ways you can do this: you can start your own group, or you can join one someone else is starting by responding to a posting in the Group listings. If you want to join a group, you can do so by clicking on the "Contact" button to the right of the relevant posting. If you want to start a group, then you post a description of the group you'd like to have on the Groups page, and then wait to be contacted. (Making contacts and being contacted are discussed in the section How will contact be made? above.) Your description should minimally state the number of members to be in the group (4-6 works well in our experience, but this is only a suggestion), and the theme(s) around which the group is to be organized. (Possible themes might be surviving the dissertation; new faculty with concerns about the transition into a faculty role, tenure, etc.; women with concerns about juggling professional and family life; and so on. Defining the concerns a group is intended to address is up to the organizer.)

As the group organizer, you must keep track of all of the details while the group is being formed. When you are contacted, you may accept or decline someone's request to join your group. If someone wants to join a partially formed group, it's the organizer's responsibility to tell her who has already joined. (It's possible that potential members might know one another and for some reason might not want to be in a group together.) Once you have a group, you send the members a list of all the members' email addresses so that they can add the group to their computers' address books, and begin communicating. There will be no list of your group and its members on WILMA. And please, don't forget to take your posting off WILMA once your group has formed.

Pros and Cons of Mentoring Relationships

The potential advantages of participating in a mentoring relationship are great, especially for the woman being mentored. The obvious advantage for her is that she benefits from the broader experience of a woman who is her senior in the field. An experienced mentor can provide a more junior woman with information about the processes in which she is participating at her particular career stage and about what is expected of her, and help her plan effective strategies. An advantage of having a mentor at a different institution is that there will likely be no conflict between the mentor's relationship with the mentee and other institutional commitments. The mentor can also be an important source of support, as well as a point of reference, for a mentee who is having experiences the mentor understands and may have gone through herself.

Assuming that both women involved in the mentoring relationship are reasonable individuals capable of negotiating and then honoring the parameters of the relationship, there are no particular disadvantages for the mentee. However, the mentee does have some responsibilities that she must take seriously for the relationship to be successful. The mentoring relationship exists to meet the mentee's career-related needs. (If the mentor has needs of her own, she is expected to meet these by establishing a separate relationship in which she is the mentee.) Thus, the mentee is responsible for defining her needs, expressing them clearly to a potential mentoring partner, and negotiating the relationship with the potential partner on this basis. The mentee is also responsible for being proactive in seeking help from her mentor when she needs it.

For the mentor, the partnership holds the potential for both advantages and some minor disadvantages. One advantage for mentors is the potential for retaining a sense of connectedness in the field. It may become easier for academics to feel distanced from the concerns and research programs of younger academics the more senior they become. For senior women, relationships with younger mentees may be a way of remaining "plugged in." Another advantage for mentors is that using knowledge or experience to help others may respond to a basic need to reciprocate if we have been helped ourselves, or simply to help others. Potential disadvantages of mentoring relationships for mentors could be the time commitment required, if mentees are especially needy, and the responsibility to be proactively involved from time to time. Just as mentees have the responsibility for defining their needs and communicating these clearly to the mentor, the mentor has the responsibility of being realistic about her ability to meet those needs, and to communicate her limits clearly to the mentee.

A potential discomfort for both parties in the mentoring relationship could be the need to be clear at all points: in establishing and setting the parameters of the partnership; in sustaining it; and in seeking a termination when the relationship has ceased to be helpful. The commitment to be clear is important, so that the usefulness of the relationship can be evaluated from time to time. When a mentoring partnership is no longer functional (as, for example, when needs change and new needs cannot be negotiated), both parties should be free to move on to other partnerships without any feelings of rejection or guilt.

How Do I Choose a Mentoring Relationship or Group

What is a co-mentoring group?

Co-mentoring arrangements are small groups of women with similar interests and concerns, who agree to form a network to communicate among themselves about the topics they wish to discuss. This arrangement combines elements of a discussion list with elements of peer counseling. Members form a group list in the address books on their own computers, and send messages to the entire group. (Note that this is not a public discussion list, but a private list run entirely by the members of the group.) While one person clearly has to take the initiative in starting a co-mentoring group (see the next item for more on this), it doesn't necessarily have to have a leader, unless that's something the initiator specifically includes in the initial description of the group. Co-mentoring groups have some different advantages from one-on-one mentoring. Sometimes in a one-on-one mentoring partnership, for example, one party might get busy and not be able to respond to a question immediately. In a co-mentoring situation, the larger number of members increases the likelihood that someone, if not everyone, will have time to respond.

It might sometimes happen that if the members of a co-mentoring group are all at approximately the same career stage, a question might arise that can't be answered by a member of the group. If members have individual mentors in addition to belonging to the group, they could raise the question with their mentors, and then report back to the group.

How do I join a co-mentoring group?

There are two ways you can do this: you can start your own group, or you can join one someone else is starting by responding to a posting in the Group listings. If you want to join a group, you can do so by clicking on the "Contact" button to the right of the relevant posting. If you want to start a group, then you post a description of the group you'd like to have on the Groups page, and then wait to be contacted. (Making contacts and being contacted were discussed in the section "How will contact be made?" above.) Your description should minimally state the number of members to be in the group (4-6 works well in our experience, but this is only a suggestion), and the theme(s) around which the group is to be organized. (Possible themes might be surviving the dissertation; new faculty with concerns about the transition into a faculty role, tenure, etc.; women with concerns about juggling professional and family life; and so on. Defining the concerns a group is intended to address is up to the organizer.)

As the group organizer, you must keep track of all of the details while the group is being formed. When you are contacted, you may accept or decline someone's request to join your group. If someone wants to join a partially formed group, it's the organizer's responsibility to tell her who has already joined. (It's possible that potential members might know one another and for some reason might not want to be in a group together.) Once you have a group, you send the members a list of all the members' email addresses so that they can add the group to their computers' address books, and begin communicating. There will be no list of your group and its members on WILMA. And please, don't forget to take your posting off WILMA once your group has formed.

What Issues Can Be Addressed in a Mentoring Relationship or Group?

The mentor can help the mentee with a wide range of issues, including (as appropriate):

  • choosing a graduate program
  • selecting an adviser
  • marketability
  • preparing for prelims, orals, or other program requirements
  • writing abstracts and giving conference talks
  • applying for fellowships and grants
  • writing (and surviving) the dissertation
  • composing a CV
  • applying and interviewing for jobs
  • preparing for a campus visit
  • jobs outside academia
  • planning and teaching classes
  • publishing articles
  • writing a book
  • getting a book published
  • the tenure process
  • dealing with difficult colleagues
  • networking
  • other survival skills

I Want to Be Both a Mentor and a Mentee

Dual roles: Can I be both a mentor and a mentee?

Yes! We encourage dual roles of this sort. In many cases, women seeking mentors will also be able to serve as mentors for more junior women. We encourage mentees seeking mentors to register also as mentors. (For example, an Assistant Professor seeking an Associate or Full Professor as a mentor might also be an effective contact for a doctoral student at or nearing the dissertation stage.) In this case, an applicant willing to serve a dual role should select "both" on the registration page under "user type." One thing to note, however, is that at this time we only have the ability to supply one "interests" box, so you will have to write something generic enough to fit your needs as a mentee and what you can offer as a mentor. If you really want to put different things in the "interests" box, one way to do it would be to register twice, with different usernames and passwords. The drawback to this, of course, is that you have to remember those usernames and passwords. (This is a programming issue which we hope to solve one day.)

Dual roles: Can I be in both a one-on-one partnership and in a co-mentoring group?

Absolutely!

Who Can Be in WILMA

Who is eligible to participate in WILMA?

Any woman who defines herself as a linguist can participate in WILMA.

Who counts as a linguist?

We define "linguist" broadly. You could have or be getting a degree in a traditional subfield of Linguistics, or in a related field, like Anthropological Linguistics, Romance Linguistics, or Psycholinguistics, to give a few examples.

Can I participate if I am working in industry?

Nowadays, many linguists work in industry, for firms like Caterpillar, Motorola, Microsoft, and others where they are involved in developing products for the market. There is an organization, Linguistic Enterprises, which offers limited mentoring oppotunities for linguists working in industry, but it isn't specifically for women. While we expect that most WILMA users will be women in academic situations, linguists working in, or intending to work in industry or other non-academic jobs are also welcome. Because we're primarily geared toward academically oriented linguists, though, it's possible that if your situation is something other than this, you might not find an appropriate mentoring partner on this site immediately. This will simply be a function of who uses the site, and is not something that can be controlled.

Can I be in WILMA if I don't live in the United States?

We'll be happy to have an international membership, and one of the positive things about making WILMA electronic is that this is practically possible now, at least for women in places where they have access to the internet. But there are a couple of things to remember: (a) Your success in finding a mentoring partner who is right for you will depend on who else signs up, and (b) This site is set up in English, and we have no plans at present to translate the text on this site into other languages. This doesn't, of course, prevent you from posting your listing(s) in a language other than English, if you want responses only from people who speak that language.

My Mentoring Relationship or Group Didn't Work Out

What if my mentoring partner stops communicating with me?

If your mentoring partner stops communicating with you for an extended period of time and you are unable to get the communication started again, you should send her a message politely ending the relationship. You are then free to post your information to the relevant pages again to form a new arrangement, if you so desire.

What Happens to My Personal Information Before and After Making a Match?

The password precautions on this site exist to protect you and your data. Your information will never be made available to outside companies or individuals. It is exclusively for the use of the mentors and mentees who use this site.

Removing information from WILMA

Once you have entered into a mentoring partnership and/or group, we ask that you remove your information from the postings page to keep the postings current. To do so, go to the menu page and click on "Modify your account." Change your user status to "inactive." This will remove your information but store it in case you ever want to reactivate it. (If you want to permanently remove your information, please email the webmaster and let her know.) Under either option, when you remove information, we'll send you a brief exit questionnaire, described in the next item.

The exit questionnaire

Please note: the text that follows describes a feature of this website that is not yet instantiated. But hopefully it will be soon! When you remove your information from WILMA's Postings lists, either temporarily or permanently, you will be sent a very brief exit questionnaire. We ask you to fill this out because it provides a mechanism to help us track whether WILMA is working or not. That is, through the questionnaire we can learn whether people are removing their information because they have succeeded in making mentoring arrangements, or whether they're leaving because they are frustrated that the system isn't working for them. The questionnaire will ask you to check a box indicating whether you made a match or not, and gives you the opportunity to add comments, if you want to.

WILMA Policies

See also the Policies page for more discussion.

Some of WILMA's policies that users should be aware of:

Abuse

Offensive postings

If someone is posting offensive listings on WILMA, we want to hear about it, and we reserve the right to remove such listings. If this happens, please contact the webmaster.

What if I'm being harassed after posting information on WILMA?

Harassing messages sent to internet users are often grounds for someone losing their account. We think is unlikely that users will be harassed, but there's a small possibility that it could happen, and we can't control this. If you're being sent unwelcome messages and you think they are linked to your involvement in WILMA, contact the webmaster and we will follow up. Make sure you save any messages you receive to document the kind of contact you are exposed to.

Troubleshooting

There are several types of problems a user could have. If you are unsure how to proceed, check to make sure that you've followed instructions, and that you've looked at what we've written on the How-To page and in these FAQs.

What version browser should I be using?

The WILMA pages were tested and found to display properly using the following browsers:

  • Firefox 1.5
  • Konqueror 3.5.2
  • Opera 9.02
  • Internet Explorer 7
  • Internet Explorer for Macintosh 5.2
  • Safari

Internet Explorer 6 and old browsers

Internet Explorer 6 will have some issues with a number of image files used on the site but is completely usable.

Users of older browsers, such as Netscape 4.x should turn off styles.

What if I forget my password?

Click on "Lost Your Password?" on WILMA's login page, and it will be emailed to you.

What if nothing works?

If WILMA is seriously malfunctioning (there are bugs in the system, buttons don't do what they're supposed to do after you've followed instructions, etc.), contact the webmaster.