It is hard to believe January is already behind us and we are only 40 days away from celebrating and connecting with you all (or should I say y’all) in Dallas for Summit & Salute! We are in full gear here at WBENC and we look forward to welcoming you soon to the Big D, along with the Women’s Business Council - Southwest.
One thing you may have missed last month is that January was National Mentoring Month, an annual campaign to promote the importance of mentorship and recognize the impact mentors have in the U.S. While the campaign focused primarily on mentoring youth, it aimed to bring attention to the positive impact of mentorship in all its forms, including in the worlds of business and entrepreneurship.
For both women business owners and women in corporate settings, mentorship has played a critical role in our progress and growth over the years. Having been historically underrepresented in positions of leadership and the supply chain, we have generally faced additional barriers for professional growth and promotion. It is our mentors - of both genders - who have helped us navigate the playing field and find pathways for success in a complex and competitive world of business.
Just as mentorship has been a big part of the success of women-owned businesses in the past, I know it will be a huge part of our future. At WBENC, we have always valued mentorship as an important tool to help WBEs benefit from one another’s experiences and expertise. And we are continuing to expand on that concept by creating more and more innovative ways for WBEs, supplier diversity professionals, and business and government leaders to connect in productive and meaningful ways.
At WBENC, we are focused on two main types of mentorship:
- Traditional, one-on-on mentorships: We frequently hear from WBEs who say one of the best parts of certification is the network of women that comes along with it. One WBE called it her “she-tribe,” which I love. Whatever you prefer to call it, the WBENC network is full of potential mentors and mentees, and we relish the opportunity to serve as the conduit for those relationships. Many mentorships happen organically at our signature events during networking sessions. Other mentorships are developed as part of our strategic programs, like the Student Entrepreneur Program and NextGen Reverse-Mentorship pairings. We take pride in connecting WBEs with those who are best equipped to help them grow.
- Industry or interest focused group mentorships: In addition to one-on-one mentorships, we are also focusing on bringing groups of WBEs in similar industries or with similar interests together with subject matter experts. This serves two main goals – first, it provides WBEs with valuable information and resources within their respective industry or interest, and two, it enables powerful peer-to-peer networking among WBEs themselves. Our educational programming, such as the WBENC Energy Executive Program and Tuck-WBENC Strategic Growth Program, present opportunities for WBEs to learn from experts and each other, while still focusing on growing and scaling their business.
We are also excited by what other organizations are doing in the mentorship space, enabled by technology and the common goal to get more young women and girls into industries where they are currently underrepresented. I encourage you to check out Million Women Mentors, which is seeking to engage one million mentors to help young women and girls pursue degrees and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that I lost an incredible mentor last month, my dear friend Cheryl Snead. We will miss her tremendously. If you haven’t, I encourage you to read our tribute to Cheryl and some of the heartwarming comments from our network.
I will leave you with a quote from Debra Stewart, Director of Supplier Diversity and Diversity Outreach at Shell Oil Company, one of America’s Top Corporations for WBEs, who spoke very eloquently when she discussed why she decided to be a mentor for our Student Entrepreneur Program:
“Wisdom is like love,” she said. “You can give it away and not have any less of it. And in fact, the more you give it away, the more it multiplies. And that’s why it’s important to be a mentor.” (Watch our interview with Debra in this video about SEP.)
Do you have a mentor that has helped you grow your business or career? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or shout out in the comments section below.
WBENC President and CEO