As she read Tidings Chimphondah’s biography and resume, Wendy Clark, Senior Vice President of Coca-Cola’s Global Sparkling Brand Center, had to remind herself that she was the mentor and not the mentee. And Tidings, managing director of an agricultural company called Progroup Holdings Limited in Zimbabwe -- in addition to being an accountant, MBA student, married mother of two, and second-in-command at her firm -- was her mentee.
Wendy saw this as an opportunity not only to impart the knowledge she had to Tidings, but as a chance to learn from a peer with her own successes to share. Every year, the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership pairs emerging women leaders from around the world with executive women leaders in the United States who participate in the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. The program provides opportunities to enhance leadership and management skills, address professional challenges, share best practices, and of course, build long-lasting relationships.
For many of the participants, the mentorships provided new inspiration, like ideas for expanding their outreach to communities through political engagement. The program also reminded them that we are all human, for example, when one mentee saw that her mentor was a little nervous before a media interview.
The lessons that Wendy Clark learned from her time with Tidings Chimphondah of Zimbabwe speak to the impact of the program on mentees and mentors alike, but also on the need for exchanges that help entrepreneurs and those who want to expand their businesses. As we celebrate Small Business Week, it is important to recognize the value of mentorship in growing successful businesses. Mentoring programs broaden each participant’s worldview and provide opportunities for women to connect on a professional and personal level.
The 23 mentees from across the globe returned home last month, eager to “pay it forward.” After all, that is the nature of mentoring: sharing your own experiences and knowledge with others so they in turn may share it within their own networks. We look forward to hearing about their continued collaboration and success. Let us know how mentorships like this have impacted your community in the comments.
About the Author: Allison Dower serves as a Program Specialist in the Office of Professional and Cultural Exchanges in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.