It seems that the primary rhetoric about women in the workforce these days is about whether we can have it all: balancing life outside work, including having a family, while still succeeding in our careers. In my position as founder and principle of my consulting firm, JFH Insights, and previously as Senior Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Corporate Reputation at the Dow Chemical Company, I understand firsthand the sacrifices women must often make to accomplish what we set out to do.
However, what stands at the center of ensuring that more women reach the highest echelons of leadership in the workplace is one simple act: mentorship. Having strong leaders who helped guide and shape my career has been integral in getting me to where I am today, and it made me realize early on that women can and should strive for the top. While at Dow, I was a founder of the Women's Innovation Network (WIN), a group of men and women focused on maximizing the professional contributions women make at the company. As a successful business leader, I consider it a top priority and responsibility to mentor the next generation of female leaders.
It was this call to mentoring that brought me to Delhi and Mumbai last month in what was yet another unexpected path in my career. I had the honor and pleasure of participating in the Global Ambassadors Program, a unique partnership between the leading women's mentoring NGO, Vital Voices, and Bank of America, that mobilizes accomplished professionals from the private and public sectors as mentors for emerging women leaders in developing countries. As India continues to emerge onto the global stage, we had the opportunity to see firsthand the impact women are having in this country and, moreover, the incredible potential they hold if given the opportunity.
Six mentors, who were senior leaders from corporations in America, worked one-on-one with six budding young social entrepreneurs in India. The mentees were already incredibly successful in their own right and were articulate, bright and committed to making a difference in their communities and for their country. I was so touched and inspired by all the women, mentors and mentees alike, successful women who are dedicated to living life with purpose and giving back.
I had the pleasure of working one-on-one with Sohini Chakraborty, Founding Director of Kolkata Sanved, which helps girls who are victims of sex trafficking and abuse reclaim their lives through dance movement therapy. Hearing the success stories of how her programs allow these girls to restore their confidence, reclaim their bodies and release their anger was inspiring. Watching the dance of her beautiful and fearless students made me appreciate her mission, dedication and courage.
My experience as a Global Ambassador has allowed me to grow as a mentor and will undoubtedly help me as I continue to build out mentorship opportunities at JFH Insights. What I have found throughout my career is that often, the barriers that women face are those they create because they don't understand what the marketplace rewards -- whether it's lacking the confidence to negotiate for ourselves or failing to build and use the right networks. When I founded my company, I made it a priority to mentor and develop women so that we could bring our unique skills and talents to the marketplace. What I continually emphasize is that women must believe in themselves and appreciate just how much they have to offer -- and, most importantly, advocate for it.
My time in India reaffirmed my understanding that all around the world there is a momentum among women that is undeniable. However, women have to remember that we can and should reach out to each other for guidance and support -- and, in turn, help others whenever we can, not just because it's the right thing to do but because a world with more women leaders will be a better world.
This article first appeared in The Huffington Post.