Women play significant roles in society. Throughout history, the central role of women in society has ensured the stability and socio-economic development of nations. Societies where women are educated and with a higher rate of female participation in the workforce see more economic progress.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “Give me good mothers and I shall give you a great nation!” This saying further demonstrates that women have been exemplary and play a critical role in advancing social development.
Conversations on gender equality and women empowerment have heightened now more than ever in the past years. Although women are making great strides in their fields of work, they continue to face significant challenges. Generally, women are underrepresented in power and decision-making roles. For some women, this takes a toll on the leadership path in their careers, making it seem like a difficult journey.
Gender equality is a basic human right, and it is also fundamental to having a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. Women receive unequal pay for work, and they often face barriers that affect their opportunities at work. These challenges can stifle their desire to strive for leadership positions and this is well captured in a quote by Steph Webster and Ruki Kurukulasuriya: “The very fact that there are less women in leadership sustains the perception that attaining leadership is hard for women.”
A virtuous cycle of opportunity
Mentoring programmes provide a great deal of help in guiding women through the new and unprecedented challenges they confront. It also gives them a mentor that will help them break through barriers. Most successful women leaders have participated in a mentoring programme that helped empower them or were privileged to be mentored by a role model.
Research shows that 71% of women will accept an invitation to act as a formal career mentor. That said, there are many ways to help empower women leaders. Recognizing the value of mentoring, many organisations have implemented mentoring programmes to help young people, especially women to realise their full potential.
Notable among them is the Vlisco Mentoring Programme. The premium fashion giant has long been a brand that not only creates beautiful fabrics but also one that inspires and champions the role of women in society.
The brand launched its Vlisco Mentoring Programme in 2019 with the aim of impacting the lives of young Ghanaian women by providing guidance on developing key skills in a variety of relevant areas. Following the success of the inaugural mentoring programme, the ambition to create long-lasting impact with the women they seek to inspire and engaging future talent, remains.
The programme was launched in partnership with Vlisco’s past Ambassadors who are adept entrepreneurs and business professionals with experiences in diverse industries to give these young women a unique opportunity for personal and professional development.
They include Dr. Ellen Hagan, 2013 Vlisco Ambassador, Founder of L’AINE Services Ltd and Co-Founder of Legacy Girls College; Eugenia Tachie-Menson, 2014 Vlisco Ambassador, passionate educator, Founder & CEO of Young Educators Foundation and Spelling Bee Ghana; and Elizabeth Patterson, 2015 Vlisco Ambassador, Founder and Executive Director of the Girl’s Education Initiative of Ghana (GEIG).
Additionally, Regina Honu, 2016 Vlisco Ambassador, Founder and CEO of Soronko Solutions and Soronko Academy); Edith Uyovbukerhi, 2018 Vlisco Ambassador, Founder of Strands of Pearls International, Country Director at Harley Reed and Co-Founder of LittleBigSouls Charitable Foundation; and Yawa Hansen-Quao, 2021 Vlisco Ambassador, Executive Director of Emerging Public Leaders and Founder of Leading Ladies Network.
Over 20 young Ghanaian women have benefitted from the programme so far. For the 2021 edition which is currently underway, new cohort of (six) mentees were selected to participate in the programme.
Each Ambassador has been assigned one mentee as part of the year-long mentorship programme, creating a forum where they can actively engage with and have a positive impact on the younger generation who aspire to follow in their footsteps.
The Mentoring Programme comprises of key components including a one-to-one mentoring session (via phone, virtual and in-person), Vlisco Business Rendezvous (monthly online sessions on zoom hosted by the Ambassadors where the mentees are given the opportunity to present a challenge they would like to overcome or a business goal they would like to achieve and together with the mentors, share ideas and resources in order to find a sustainable solution) and Vlisco mentoring WhatsApp group to encourage peer-to-peer mentorship.
Impact of the Vlisco Mentoring Programme
The programme is closely monitored to ensure the knowledge and skills imparted to the mentees are utilized effectively. A recent survey showed that the benefits of the Vlisco Mentoring Programme are not only limited to the professional performance of the mentees but also to core competencies such as collaboration, public speaking, communication, networking, among others. Of note, one of the mentees received counselling from her mentor and has transitioned into an industry she hopes to thrive in.
Mentoring is a vital lever we can activate to advance more women in their work to help them gain access to leadership opportunities, and to be better prepared for these opportunities when they come. Women empowered become agents of change and mentoring will offer guidance and the willpower to help them create the future they desire.