This is the story of a�?paying it forward.a�? A tale of how two women, from two very different parts of the world, are using the opportunities they were given to make a positive impact in their communities.
We told you about Nana Beecham (a�?Living on African Timea�?), the managing director of Seatec Telecom Services in Ghana. She visited Xerox as part of a 2010 FORTUNE/U.S. State Department Global Womena��s Mentoring Partnership. This program connects Americaa��s senior female executives with emerging female leaders from other countries. Through mentoring, the participants gain professional and personal insight that helps them improve themselves and make life better for those around them.
It didna��t take long for Nana to transform her experience into something much bigger back home. With the help of two Xerox caucus groups, the Black Womena��s Leadership Council (BWLC) and The Womena��s Alliance, she is facilitating her own mentoring program with second-year high school girls in Ghana who are studying science. Five of these young women are personally mentored, via Internet, by U.S.-based BWLC members.
a�?Our new mentees have already fallen in love with Xerox,a�? Nana said. a�?When they become decision-makers in the future, I believe there will be 26 young Ghanaian women pushing vehemently for Xerox solutions in their workplace.a�?
Nana is also working on fulfilling her dream of starting a literacy program. Using books donated by the Rochester (New York) Literacy Movement, Nana hopes to create a reading room in the rural town where the high school is located, so everyone in the community can benefit from the books. This is just the beginning.
a�?Although I am amazed at how much has happened in the six months since my return from the program, I can tell that a lot more is ahead,a�? she said. a�?I am grateful to Xerox and to all of the dedicated people who made it happen.a�?
Meanwhile, in Argentina a��
Now, leta��s take a quick trip to Cordoba, Argentina, and meet Cecilia Flores, a marketing and communications regional analyst for ACSa�� Argentine-based operations, formerly known as Multivoice. Cecilia participated in a mentoring program called Voces Vitales Argentina (Vital Voices Argentina). Founded in 1997 by then-U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Vital Voices aims to expand womena��s roles in the workplace and in society. Although the organization is not new, the mentoring program is just starting in Argentina. Cecilia took part with the full support of ACS leadership.
a�?Cecilia has great potential and is constantly challenging herself,a�? said Mike Wooden, ACSa�� senior vice president of Business Process Solutions (BPS) responsible for South America sales. a�?We knew that Vital Voices would give her the opportunity to see how other people do things; to gain new perspective. I think thata��s the best way to grow.a�?
Cecilia and 27 other young executives flew to Buenos Aires to meet with the top female executives who would become their mentors. The group visited the National Congress, met with high-ranking women in government, and spent five days a�?shadowinga�? their mentors.
Cecilia was paired with Graciela Adan, the owner of a successful public relations firm. She accompanied Graciela on her client meetings, including one with an ex-president of Chile.
a�?By shadowing, I was able to see how a powerful woman makes decisions, to ask her questions and to see how she balances her work life and her home life,a�? Cecilia said. a�?We tend to think of CEOs as big and powerful people from another planet. But, in reality, there is a human behind every decision.a�?
According to Cecilia, one of the biggest lessons she learned was to believe in herself and her convictions.
a�?You have to believe in yourself and your ideas, and not be afraid to fight for what you know is the right option,a�? she said. a�?Speak and act with confidence.a�?
Since returning from the program, Cecilia has already started to pay it forward. She is using her marketing and social media skills to help create a formal 2011 communications plan for Vital Voices Argentina to increase participation. She is also sharing her insights with her co-workers and friends.
a�?Deep in my heart, I hope I will one day be able to give other women what my mentor and the program has given me,a�? Cecilia said. a�?I want everyone to know that if you work hard, you can change your life and the lives of others.a�?
Maria Gabriela Hoch, co-founder and president of Vital Voices Argentina, agrees. a�?Ia��m absolutely sure that Cecilia and the other talented young leaders will make a difference in their communities. Because, when women get together, big things start to happen,a�? she said.