Female leaders and mentoring

Find out how the Global Ambassadors Program is helping female entrepreneurs from around the world to achieve their goals

In February 2016, The Gateway attended ‘Women, Progress and the Global Economy’ – a public forum hosted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch in partnership with Vital Voices, as part of the Global Ambassadors Program.

The Gateway spoke to Jennifer Boussuge, head of Global Transaction Services, EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and one of the mentors in this year’s programme.

We asked her about her experience and why she thinks mentoring is so important.

Why did you want to be a mentor for the Global Ambassadors Program?

“First of all I’m a huge advocate of mentoring. I’ve been mentored myself at various stages in my career – I was lucky enough to have sponsors who saw something in me and who were able to encourage and push me along when I needed it. 

“Taking part in the Global Ambassadors Program was really about paying the favour forward and giving something back. I’ve been a mentor on a number of initiatives with the bank in the US; however this was a great opportunity to be involved in the work we do on a wider, global level. 

“There is also a strong economic argument behind the Global Ambassadors Program: it’s something that directly aids global development and from this perspective it makes perfect business sense. 

“This is our chance as an organisation to support the communities where we operate.”

What have you enjoyed most about your work with the programme?

“Every programme attendee is assigned their own mentor to work with. I was matched with a young woman from Turkey who is launching her own enterprise.

“She grew up in a family business and it was expected that she would eventually work and lead the company. However, her dream is to set up her own wellbeing centre; and she had the courage to break away from the pathway set out for her and to do something different. 

“It’s a fantastic initiative – the centre will provide a range of services, including helping people to give up smoking and other addictions. She’s really passionate about the project and has this amazing desire to help her community.

“I’ve been working with her to create a business plan and to decide on the best way to take her idea forward – whether it will be run for profit or as a non-governmental organisation (NGO). We’ve also looked into potential sources of funding that may be available to her. 

“As a mentor you’re not necessarily expected to provide concrete advice and answers: your job is to listen to your mentee and to outline the options. It’s really about helping them to connect the dots. 

“During the Global Ambassadors Program, we run various workshops covering topics such as writing a business plan and creating a social media strategy, as well as several group training sessions, such as the one I led on financial management.

“Our role as mentors is to be there to guide these women and to allow them to tap into our experience and networks. We can point them in the right direction; however it’s their passion and enthusiasm that will ultimately drive their projects forward and bring them to fruition.”

Who does mentoring help and how?

“Perhaps the best thing about mentoring, while you may not realise it at the time, is that the work you’re doing benefits a wide network of people – not just your mentee.

“By helping one person you create a ripple effect. Once the programme is over the women we’ve helped return to their communities; they put what they’ve learnt into practice, and help others in the process.

“It’s a great feeling to  make a positive difference to not only our mentees’ lives, but their communities too. 

“I feel like my mentee has gained greater clarity of thought through the work we’ve done together; she now has a better idea of how to take her idea forward and achieve her goals.  

“We’ve given her a structure to work with and the confidence to take her business to the next stage. Now it’s up to her to plan and research; then she’ll come back to me for further help when she’s ready.

“I’ve also taken a huge amount away from the experience. The young women we work with have so much passion and drive for what they’re doing – their energy is infectious and you can’t help but be inspired by their ambition and what they’ve been able to achieve so far. 

“It’s extremely humbling to see what some of these women have had to contend with over the course of their lives. It makes their achievements all the more amazing!”

What advice do you have for anyone hoping to be involved in a mentorship programme?

“Whether as a mentor or mentee, if you have the chance to take part in a programme yourself I’d say go for it – you have so much to gain and nothing to lose!

“When choosing a potential mentor it’s important that you first take the time to think about what you want to take away from the experience.

“Consider your career objectives and the skills you are looking to develop and then think who might be best equipped to help you obtain these.

“Your mentor does not have to be the most senior person in their department – do your research and think about who will be the best fit for you.”

You can learn more about the impact of the  Global Ambassadors Program here.