On November 17, 2012, thousands of women participated in the Global Mentoring Walk in 19 cities around the world. The Global Mentoring Walk, organized by key members of the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network annually, is an opportunity to highlight the importance of women’s leadership, and to accelerate the impact of women leaders through mentoring. This year’s organizers, called flagbearers, included 19 alumnae from the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership, as well as leaders from Vital Voices chapters and businesswomen’s networks.
The Global Mentoring Walk creates an environment for collaboration and networking among emerging and established women leaders within a community. The Walk contributes to a culture of mentorship and creates accessible mentoring opportunities for young women.
Research shows that individuals who have been mentored are more likely to become mentors themselves. According to a Catalyst study, individuals who have been mentored are 59 percent more likely to pay it forward in the same fashion. And the majority of women who have been mentored continue the cycle – 65 percent of female mentees mentored others, compared to 56 percent of males.
It is a statistic that rings true for Sarika Bhattacharyya and Manal Kelig, alumnae of the Fortune/U.S. State Department mentoring program and flagbearers for the 2012 Global Mentoring Walk in Gurgaon, India, and Cairo, Egypt. They shared a bit about their experience with us:
Sarika recruited senior women leaders from the business community in Delhi to serve as mentors for her walk, catalyzing long-term mentoring relationships between these established leaders and younger entrepreneurs and professionals. In India, over a quarter of women in business cite a lack of role models as a barrier to advancement, according to a 2010 study. Without powerful female role models, mentors, or sponsors, Indian women in business face an even greater challenge as they tackle negative gender stereotypes, and they are also more likely to downgrade their career aspirations as they spend more time in the workplace.
In Egypt, Manal saw strong local and foreign support for women’s participation in the democratic transition, but less focus on closing the gender gap in education. Manal used the Mentoring Walk as an opportunity to broaden the conversation to other relevant issues in Egypt, including panel discussions and a fair that highlighted seventeen foundations and companies with women’s empowerment initiatives.
Leveraging partnerships and networks
Building and expanding networks for women is a critical part of Vital Voices’ work, as women tend to have less access to networks, and to less diverse networks, than their male counterparts, according to a 2009 study. This social capital – the personal and professional networks we access – is particularly significant for entrepreneurs, who may rely on the individuals in them for essential counsel, whether that be related to business development, forging new partnerships, or even financial and legal advice.
The Mentoring Walk unifies the Global Leadership Network each year, and supports the development of women’s networks in a given community. For example, Sarika collaborated with fellow participants from the Global Ambassadors Program in India and Fortune/U.S. State Department program alumni to serve as mentors for the Gurgaon Mentoring Walk. Additionally, she utilized the resources of her nonprofit organization, the Biz Divas Foundation, to organize and promote the walk and expand its reach. Manal teamed up with Amany Eid, another Fortune/U.S. State Department program alumna to organize the Cairo events. Their Mentoring Walk brought together a diverse group of women – from a 28-year-old writer to a 55-year-old PhD.
To maintain the momentum of the Global Mentoring Walk, both Sarika and Manal plan to host follow-up programs and events. In April, Sarika will host the INSPIRE Conference, where mentors and mentees from the Gurgaon Mentoring Walk will speak about their mentorship experiences. Manal is currently working with foundations and corporate sponsors interested in offering training and skills development workshops to Egyptian women.
Check out photos from the 2012 Mentoring Walk on Facebook.
Photo credit, middle and lower: E. Abo Elkomsan