In September we had the privilege of working with UN Women as it launched its first formal leadership development mentoring program in Cairo, Egypt. Participants from the Ivory Coast, Egypt, Uganda, Moldova, Albania, Liberia, South Africa, Rwanda, New Delhi, Istanbul, Santo Domingo, Panama, Brussels, Copenhagen and Geneva joined us for the mentoring kickoff training.
UN Women mentees volunteered for this global initiative for a variety of reasons: They were looking to invest in their own development and take their leadership to the next level. They wanted career guidance. And they wanted candid, safe feedback. These were the things they worked on — things that would really matter!
Like other mentees we’ve worked with, this team came to mentoring with the very same concerns and questions. They wondered:
- Will I be worthy of a senior leader’s time?
- Will I be able to accomplish enough during their mentoring timetable to make the investment valuable?
- Will I feel comfortable and be able to build trust with a leader I don’t know?
- Will the feedback I receive be confidential and useful?
- Will my mentor have time in their demanding schedule to connect with me?
However, we did find some unique challenges for mentoring pairs in third-world countries, especially when trying to connect across time zones. Poor quality Internet service and gaps in time zones can make communication particularly difficult. Even so, mentoring has been value-added for these mentees, who say they appreciate the support provided by mentors and the opportunity mentoring gives them to reflect on themselves, their development and their future.
UN Women is the United Nations entity that promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women. Its Mentoring Program is designed to grow its workforce by giving mentees access to role models, tapping into networks and increasing visibility. It also helps mentors develop key leadership skills, giving them the opportunity to directly support the next generation of UN Women.