Connecting and Empowering Women Through Mentorship
May 19, 2015 | Focus on Women
I love surrounding myself with people who inspire.
Recently, I spent some time with one of the most inspirational women I know, lifelong entrepreneur Ingrid Vandervelt. Amid the hubbub of South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, she invited me to join a panel discussion on how to create opportunities for women in leadership: how women can find their voice, be authentic and work as a team to encourage change. I found myself energized by the ideas that were shared and returned from the experience determined to work harder to widen the path for women in the workplace.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been inspired by Ingrid. Last year, I presented her with the first ever Northwestern Mutual Excellence in Entrepreneurship award in recognition of her goal to “Empower a Billion Women by 2020”—an effort now known as EBW2020. Through EBW2020, her vision is to provide female entrepreneurs around the globe the tools and resources they need to succeed. In particular, Ingrid hopes to see a mobile device in the hands of every woman worldwide so she can connect with others, become financially literate and fuel her personal and professional success.
At the event in Austin a few weeks ago, Ingrid announced the next phase in her plan to empower a billion women: the formal launch of a global mentorship program. Any woman anywhere in the world who wants to launch a business—or who wants to achieve a greater level of success with an existing business—can sign up to be matched with a mentor who can offer support. The online service is free and takes just a few minutes to register.
By making it easy for women around the globe to share and learn best practices, Ingrid’s mentorship program will connect and empower women as never before. They’ll have access to knowledge and will develop the confidence they need to be successful—both professionally and personally.
Hearing about her plan reminds me of how important it is to “pay it forward.” As women and as leaders, we have an obligation to help future generations of women succeed. For some of us, that may mean participating in formal mentoring programs like the one Ingrid is starting or in one that may be in place through our employers. For others, it may simply mean being open and willing to share advice when asked. Either way, making the effort to connect with other women benefits us all; we will both inspire others and be inspired ourselves.