Significant change has happened in many countries with regards to women's emancipation. However, equality in leadership positions stubbornly evolves at a snail’s pace.
Though women are increasingly respected as professionals, very few are holding leadership roles. In having more women in leadership positions, organisations can benefit from their fresh perspectives and get to understand their customers better because in the majority of instances they are women and therefore contribute to better decision making.
The 21st century is an era in which the demand for women leaders greatly exceeds supply. The world economy is faced with vastly different challenges then those which existed 20 years ago. Change cannot be left to chance.
Mentoring has become an accepted people development approach in the last few decades for both sexes, but for tangible progress to be made, women leaders must not under-estimate their own power by taking on more active ambassadorial and guardian angel roles to ensure that upcoming women are exposed to experiences and decision makers that will ensure their upward mobility.
The 8th of March is International Women's Day, a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. This is also the day of the Global Mentoring Walk, which convenes established women leaders and emerging women leaders to walk together in their community.
As they walk, they discuss their professional challenges and successes to establish a mentoring relationship, in which the established leader guides, advises and supports an emerging leader. The Mentoring Walk event is held on the same day in countries across the world and unifies the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network.
“I was introduced to the value of mentoring when I was selected in 2010 by the Fortune 500/ U.S. State Department, under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, for the Global Women’s Mentoring Programme with 32 other emerging women leaders to be mentored by women leaders of Fortune 500 companies in the US who shared their time, talent and expertise in business with the next generation of international women leaders. I had three mentors: the President of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), Donna Orender; the co-founder of the Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership programme and Vice President of External Relations of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Carrie Ross Welch and the Chief Executive of Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC, Meredith Whitney”, says Dudu Musomi CEO at Busara Leadership Partners.
Randall Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson say that “If experience is the best teacher, learning from someone else’s experience is a close second”. Mentorship commonly referred to as a developmental relationship between a more experienced professional and a less experienced partner referred to as a protégé - a person guided, introduced into their network (sponsorship), informed of beneficial opportunities (as a result of information asymmetry ) by a more prominent person.
Mentoring is about a relationship and involves both the professional and the personal. It focuses on the future, career development and broadening an individual’s horizons. Women who achieve success and touch many lives using their gifts despite the many obstacles that their times and circumstances present should be of great inspirations to us.
The scale in which each of us will make an impact in the world may differ. Being a mentor is to be instrumental and active in increasing women representation on boards, not just in South Africa, but as far as one can reach; to increase interactions, partnerships and trade amongst women globally and to build a pipeline of women leadership who bring a balance of technical competence and ethical decision-making to take their rightful places in business, politics and civil society.
Networks are critical for individuals’ successes due to the advantages one gains through access to privy information, opportunities for collaboration, protection, visibility and upward mobility.
The key principle of a network is that of trust as it is based on mutually beneficial exchanges between individuals. What women in leadership can share with their mentees and protégés is not the same as with just any acquaintance.
Thus, as women leaders who have achieved success, we have the ability to touch many lives using our gifts, fortunes and positional power, despite the many obstacles such as constraints on our time. The scale in which each of us can make an impact in the world may differ. But whether we touch one life or millions, it seems a worthwhile mission to actively offer ourselves as mentors and to leave the world a little better than we found it.
During this International Women's Day it is important that we highlight the importance of women’s leadership and to accelerate the impact of women leaders through mentoring. Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State said “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.
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