Building a Global Community of Businesswomen through Mentorships

By: Becca Bycott, Social Media Manager with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

When women succeed, countries succeed. American women in particular play a key role in collaborating with their counterparts from all around the world to create life-changing professional development opportunities that promote women’s success and leadership both at home and abroad.

Every year since 2006, the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership has paired top American businesswomen with emerging international women leaders for two-week mentorships in cities across the United States. The mentors are members of Fortune’s list of Most Powerful Women Leaders, and — just like the emerging women leaders they are paired with — come from varied backgrounds in government, business, academia, civil society, and the media. In addition to offering a firsthand look at management skills in practice and business advice, the program is designed to create a global network of women who pave the way for future generations, including through economic and women’s empowerment projects in local communities.

In their own words, here are key takeaways from some of this year’s American mentors and international mentees on the value of mentorship and empowering women around the globe.

Mentorship is Mutually Beneficial

Gladys Kong, CEO of UberMedia, right, served as a mentor for Hana Qerimi, Kosovo, founder of Shkolla Digjitale

“There is so much that we can learn from each other. It doesn’t matter what language you speak because technology is universal. As a mentor, I hope to provide Hana with the support she needs to continue growing her business. That said, while I am in the ‘mentor’ role, this is a mutually beneficial relationship. Hana is a bright, intelligent, determined leader who continues to persevere and excel.” — Gladys Kong, CEO of UberMedia

Mentorship is Discovering that Business Ideas are Global

Khulan Davaadorj, Mongolia, founder of LHAMOUR, right, was paired with mentor Sarah Kauss, CEO of S’well.

“The synergy has been phenomenal. S’well has answered many of the questions that Khulan currently faces as she scales her business, making it easier to provide tools, information and connections that will hopefully have real impact for LHAMOUR. Plus, it is incredibly rewarding partnering with an entrepreneur that has a shared commitment to positively impacting the world.” — Sarah Kauss, CEO of S’well

Kasha Cacy, U.S. CEO of global media agency UM (right), served as a mentor for Jowita Michalska, Poland, CEO of Warsaw Smash
“Building a global community of women who can support each other is one of the keys to building equality in the workplace worldwide. I think the biggest difference I made as a mentor was just sharing similar experiences, so we could both learn from each other.” –Kasha Cacy, U.S. CEO of global media agency UM

“In my country, it’s difficult for me to find the mentor that will tell me something I do not know yet or who will make a really big difference in my life. With the Global Mentorship Program, I was able to learn a different culture and a completely different way of doing business, especially in terms of women. In Poland our economy is still young, so we don’t have a lot of successful women with all their wisdom, attitude and amazing — very different from men — women leadership style. One of the biggest ideas I learned is ‘think global.’ It is amazing to have this global perspective and not to be afraid to think globally and make a global change.” — Jowita, CEO, Warsaw Smash

Mentorship is Part of the American Experience

“Some of our countries are not actively engaged in and promoting mentorship like what I have seen in the USA. One of my key observations while in America was the culture of mentoring; almost everyone I met has a mentor and a mentee, and in most cases, multiple mentor-mentee relationships over the years. In my years of corporate work and years of business, I have never had a mentor. In American corporate and business culture, you have a mentor and a mentee. It’s a way of life, and a way to grow your career and business. It’s a give and take relationship of a chain of empowerment that I found so profound and admirable.” — Tshikani Colleen Makhubele, South Africa, CEO of Mzumbe Group

Jill Wilson, SVP, Game Development at Jam City, right, served as a mentor to Danielle Sharaf, Pakistan, CEO of Switch

“This program has opened my eyes to how fortunate I am, as an American businesswoman, to have access to support communities, whether it be in my own company, in the gaming industry, in tech and through networking events like Fortune’s MPW. As the only female tech CEO in Pakistan, Danielle is on a bit of an island when it comes to opportunities to grow her network and form a support community, so it’s even more important that programs like this exist to help bridge those relationships. I have been so impressed with the caliber of experience that the program is providing for Danielle and for all of the participants. Giving these impressive women access to such a robust support system can make a big impact on not only their own lives, but also the lives of other women in their home countries, as they take their new learnings and perspectives back with them.” — Jill Wilson, SVP, Game Development at Jam City

Whether it is a young professional receiving helpful advice on how to put her business plan into action or a seasoned business executive newly inspired by a different perspective, mentorship is about giving people at all levels the opportunity to share knowledge that changes their lives in profound ways. Through the network that this mentorship creates, women leaders are leveling the playing field for women and paving the way for future global collaborations in the years ahead.

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