Perspectives on Mentoring

Why Mentoring? Mentoring costs nothing, apart from time. It is one of the most powerful gifts that one person can give to another and there is a place for mentorship in every society, at every level.

There is enormous value to be gained through mentorship.

Fundamentally, mentorship is an exchange. It has elements of giving and receiving on both sides. Mentors appreciate being offered the opportunity to give back and share their own best practice. This, in turn, helps the mentee to grow, to take that next big step beyond their comfort zone. Ideally, a mentorship pair develops a reciprocal relationship in which the mentor is also given an opportunity to reflect on her/his own and others’ leadership styles.   

Secondly, mentoring is a relationship that improves both leadership and career growth. Learning from someone else’s best practice allows a mentee to bypass some unnecessary and possibly expensive business lessons. It gives the mentee the opportunity to see things beyond their own experience, to see a bigger or a different picture and to receive an impartial and trusted perspective. Within an organization, mentorship allows people to reach their fuller potential as an individual. An unexpected outcome of mentorship can include the opening up of networks, where the mentee is offered opportunities to connect with people outside their own environment.

Historically, generations of men have mentored and sponsored the next generations of men and boys. These relationships have proved to be so effective that it was time to apply and expand this investment to women. For women, particularly in the developing world, mentorship is a new and growing practice.

Within the Global Ambassadors Program (GAP), Vital Voices brings a global and trusted network of women leaders committed to investing in and supporting their own growth and that of others.  For Bank of America, the program gives female executives within the Bank the opportunity to engage with women leaders from around the world for whom mentoring is a new and growing practice.

The Global Ambassadors Program has worked with 64 mentee women leaders in business, social enterprise and non-profit work from 33 countries across the developing world. These women come from different cultures and different societal challenges, the public and private sectors as well as NGOs and are all united by a set of common missing elements in both their leadership and career growth.  The Global Ambassadors Program has addressed that gap by creating a new model, with women mentoring women as its backbone. This model is robust and holistic. Three elements that make this model unique.

The first element is the actual Mentorship itself and includes one-on-one, group and peer mentoring. The second element is that of a very specific set of Business Skills Training components. Regardless of the business/organization focus, mentee background and culture etc, we have recognized a strong need to include sessions incorporating: strategic planning, financial management, human resource management and communications. The third and equally important element is that of Personal Development and goal setting outside of the work arena.

For the globally successful women leaders who serve as mentors, the program offers the opportunity to change mindsets. By traveling to different parts of the world, mentors gain fresh insights into different cultures and business norms.

We believe that the power of the mentoring relationship has the capacity to transform society. Relationships that extend over time and across geographies and industries, along with the profoundly transformative exchange of knowledge, ideas, data and perspectives, creates a systemic, deeply-rooted talent pool that is put to work within economies and societies to advance the common good.  

For a Vital Voices woman leader who has been mentored, her sustaining gift as a part of GAP is to return home armed with increased skills and thinking and thus improve the conditions of her business/organization at home.

Each Bank of America woman leader who has served as a mentor has claimed that through this experience, she has shared best practice, questioned some of her own learnings and has gained new insights into the conditions of women in different cultures.