ISRI Highlights Successful Member-Led Mentorship Program

Jan 26, 2024, 12:00 PM
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Vicki Morgan
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January is National Mentoring Month, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of learning opportunities available to mentees and mentors. ISRI believes in the power of mentor relationships in the recycled materials industry and hosts a robust mentorship program through its Women in Recycling (WIR) Council. The annual program, which is open to all ISRI members, benefits both mentees and mentors.

The ever-growing program, currently led by industry leader Laura Sleighter, and Paula Summers. The current cohort includes 42 professionals.

“The WIR Council saw the need to develop a formal membership program for mentoring,” said Summers. “There has always been mentoring happening within ISRI, and the council complemented that by offering a structured program, that provides access to members who may not already have a mentor resource.”

The process for becoming a mentor or mentee is comprehensive and based on experience, background and what members hope to gain from the program to create the best matches.

“Once mentors and mentees are paired, it’s very organic but can be guided by WIR-produced prompts, conversation starters and through overall participation in ISRI events and opportunities,” said Sleighter. “Our hope is that paired mentors and mentees start off with an email and phone call, then progress to use ISRI events to meet in person throughout the year.”

The WIR Mentorship Program harnesses the power of year-round ISRI events to give mentors and mentees the opportunity to not only meet in person, but to gain industry-specific knowledge and other networking opportunities.

“WIR holds events within ISRI in-person events, such as the scheduled Networking Reception at ISRI2024,” said Sleighter. “Our WIR events are open to all members, not just mentors and mentees, and offer focused networking opportunities.”

The program opens applications for new mentor and mentee participants in early summer with promotions on social media and by email. The committee then begins the process of matching mentors with mentees based on factors stated on the applications, as well as desired benefits listed by applicants. Once mentors are matched with mentees in the fall, the year-long program kicks off. Pairs then receive monthly topics for their consideration, while maintaining the organic aspects of the mentor and mentee relationship.

“One great aspect of the program is that we’ve seen so many of our ISRI leaders step forward to participate as mentors as their time and knowledge is invaluable,” said Summers. “It’s also been encouraging to see our mentees decide to sign up as mentors the following year. The relationships continue on past the yearly program in so many ways.”

Brian Shine, ISRI past chair and CEO of Manitoba Corp. found the experience a great opportunity to give back and has been part of the program for three years. “In this industry, it’s critically important for younger people to connect with mentors as they launch their career because there’s so much to learn,” he said.

Both Sleighter and Summers point to the many benefits that mentorship pairs experience through the program, including how the ISRI membership has always been generous in helping educate new members. The program has proven to be very beneficial not only to mentees, but mentors also gain valuable real-time knowledge.

“Even as a mentor, you end up learning things from the mentee, as well,” said Sleighter. “It’s a very organic, give-and-take program. I learned a lot from my mentee.”

For more information on WIR and ISRI’s Mentor Program, contact Rachel Bookman,

January is National Mentoring Month, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of...
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