Zoe Dean-Smith

Vice President, Global Leadership Programs

With 35 years of experience in for-profits, non-profits and social enterprise, Zoe heads up the Global Ambassadors Program, the Fortune / State Department Mentoring Program and the VVLead Fellowship.

Between 2007 and 2011, based in Swaziland, Zoë served as Senior Director of Vital Voices’ Global Entrepreneurs in Handcrafts Program. During this time, she also worked with TechnoServe, developing Swaziland’s handcraft sector and with IFC’s Grassroots Business Initiatives across Africa and South East Asia.

In 2011/2012, Zoë project–managed The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation’s programs in Water, Health and Education. Prior to 2007, she was Managing Director of Gone Rural, working with 700 women handcrafters in Swaziland, exporting globally. She launched the Gone Rural BoMake NGO, facilitating programs including water, food security and HIV/AIDS support.

Zoë received a 2011 TIAW World of Difference Award and a 2005 Pan African Business Woman Award for Capacity Building. She has been active in public speaking internationally addressing economic empowerment, community development, leadership and mentoring, the impact of HIV/AIDS and women’s rights issues.

She serves on the Boards of the Good Shepherd International Foundation (Italy) and the Grassroots Business Fund (USA). She has served on the Jury of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. In 2008, she initiated a Mentorship Program between successful women and young women leaders in Swaziland. She serves as a Mentor in the Cherie Blair Mentoring Women in Business program and in the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for Young African Leaders.

Outside of work, Zoe is a fitness instructor, teaching Indoor Cycling classes.

More about Zoe:

Favorite Quote?

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Name three inspiring women you’ve met in your own life.
Mikaila Ulmer (12 years old uber-entrepreneur who is saving our bees), Karla Ruiz Cofino, Beth Brooke-Marciniak


List five things that people could ask you about
Economic empowerment and social enterprise in countries with emerging economies, Waterskiing, the Kingdom of Swaziland, Indoor cycling, Dogs


Where is your favorite place you have traveled?
Inhaca island, Mozambique


What inspired you to work at Vital Voices, and what do you love about your job here?
A group of young women who attended the VV 2007 Summit in Cape Town. The incredible women around the world that I get to work with, who inspire and motivate me to keep doing what I’m doing and to keep evolving within my work


What is your favorite place in D.C.?
Hain’s Point, Clare & Don’s beach shack in Falls Church, Kenilworth aquatic garden


What is the most unusual thing you keep at your desk?
A Tibetan singing bowl filled with beautiful healing stones and crystals. It’s always interesting to see which stone visitors pick up first


What makes a great leader?
Intellectual curiosity, Humility, Passion and Compassion


What was the last great book you read?
“Eat, drink and blame the ancestors” by Ndumiso Ncobo (a South African journalist / author). I loved the book because he made me laugh out loud that the things we all do in our daily lives. A breath of fresh air !


What would be the title of your autobiography?
Man, what a ride !!!


What do you see as one of the greatest challenges facing women leaders?
Them having the courage to take their rightful place in the world


You’re hosting a small dinner and have seats for three famous people, who are they?
Richard Branson, Mark Knopfler, Jonny Wilkinson


What’s your Myers-Briggs? Is it accurate?
ENTJ, Yes.