The Power of Mentoring: Established Leaders Giving Voice to Emerging Leaders

A GUEST POST BY ALYSE NELSON, President and CEO of Vital Voices Globlal Partnership.2010 Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit This past week in Washington, D.C., some of the most innovative, influential leaders gathered for the 12th annual Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. From pioneering executives like Ann Moore, chairman of TIME Inc., to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, an exceptional group of leaders in business, civil society and politics came together to consider issues like economic recovery and development, new media, reinventing careers, entrepreneurship and “Building a Legacy”.

What strikes me most about this collection of amazing, accomplished women — along with a few great male allies like Warren Buffet — was their resounding commitment to lift up and give voice to others. This is my fifth time attending the annual power gathering, and each year I see an increased focus and excitement around established women leaders mentoring emerging leaders.

Mentoring is increasingly being recognized as a transformative development strategy — one that leads not only to social development, but economic and political development. The value of mentoring has been recognized in many American workplaces; 75 percent of leading executives point to the key influence a mentor has had in their success. One of the most powerful effects of mentoring: women who are mentored tend to pay that experience forward, by investing in other women. They share new knowledge, contacts, skills and resources, and invest in the education and leadership training of girls. By working with one woman, a mentor is potentially affecting the lives of many others.

For several years, Vital Voices has collaborated with FORTUNE Magazine and the U.S. Department of State in a global mentoring program that pairs senior women executives from Fortune 500 companies in the United States with emerging businesswomen and social entrepreneurs from around the world. A testament to their remarkable success, alumnae of the program were recognized by Secretary Clinton in her keynote address at this week’s summit.

I believe whole-heartedly in the power of mentoring, which is why this week, in collaboration with the Adolescent Girl Initiative and in partnership with the World Bank and Nike Foundation, we held Unleashing Young Women’s Leadership Potential, a Rising Voices program aimed at mentoring and training young women for leadership. They came from Afghanistan, Jordan, Liberia, Laos, Nepal and Southern Sudan for leadership and communications trainings to help them find their voice and take on leadership roles in their communities. The four-day program culminated with a packed event at the World Bank featuring the Bank's President Robert Zoellick, Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, along with actor Anne Hathaway, supermodel and activist Christy Turlington, former child-solder and artist Emanuel Jal and the young women leaders.

It’s been an incredible week of reflection on the progress of women leaders from all areas of influence, and while there’s certainly a great deal of unfinished business ahead, I was encouraged to see the emerging trend of mentorship playing out at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and at the World Bank.

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