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Women in Southeast Asia:
From Poverty to Prosperity to Prominence

Seven high-level women bankers, entrepreneurs and civil society leaders from around the world met today in Singapore with seven high-impact mentees from Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Burma and Thailand for the Global Ambassadors Program, a Vital Voices and Bank of America partnership designed to provide mentorship opportunities for emerging women leaders.

The trip follows a successful launch year in 2012, which featured mentoring forums in Haiti, South Africa and India that established long-term mentorships to provide women leaders with skills and tools needed to positively contribute to their communities, the global economy and a more sustainable future.

The May 7-10 program in Singapore is comprised of a public forum and an intensive mentorship initiative to advance women as drivers of innovation and economic growth in the region. Global Ambassadors include Bank of America Merrill Lynch executives as well as women representing a range of industries spanning entrepreneurship, advocacy and public service. They are matched with mentees drawn from the region – talented, rising stars poised to make significant impact in their work and communities.


Today’s events began with a conversation with Beth Brooke, Ernst & Young’s Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, who shared stories of lessons learned as both a mentee and a mentor while climbing the corporate ladder. 

“Women without mentors are out there on their own,” she admitted. Mentorship provides critical support, and good mentors spend their own political capital to ensure mentees’ success, she explained.

After morning introductions the Global Ambassadors and mentees broke into pairs for one-on-one meetings to lay out goals and objectives for the week.


Wednesday features a ferry trip to the nearby Indonesian island Bintan, where mentee Heena Patel will lead the group through local communities who work with her organization, The Island Foundation, a local NGO dedicated to improving the lives of subsistence coastal communities in the Riau Archipelago.


The public forum on Thursday welcomes distinguished leaders from the business and NGO community to explore with Global Ambassadors Program participants the business case for empowering women as leaders through mentorship. By focusing on the measurable impact of women’s economic engagement and presenting a clear path for women to develop as business professionals, forum discussions will build a persuasive narrative that guides women in the region from poverty to prosperity to prominence.


Check back here for blog updates as the week concludes Friday, and follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #GlobalAmbassadors, and like our Facebook page to stay connected.

Read the first Global Ambassadors Program Singapore post.

Learn more about the Global Ambassadors Program.

Photo, top: Kate James, chief communications officer, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with Vipavee Kunavichayanont, founder, Design for Disasters

Photography: David Hume Kennerly