This past February, a remarkable group of women traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Florence Chenoweth, Liberia's minister of agriculture; Constance A. Morella, former ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; Mu Sochua, a member of Cambodia's parliament; Maria Bello, an actress and activist; and Justine Metz, a Bank of America marketing executive, went there to work with women leaders on skill-building and strategic planning efforts to help the country continue to rebuild after the earthquake that devastated the island nation in January 2010.
On the final day of the program, Global Strategy and Marketing Officer Anne Finucane and Global Head of Human Resources Andrea Smith participated in sessions focused on developing platforms to help drive Haiti's economic growth, including education, infrastructure and the environment, access to health care and increasing civic participation among the nation's women. Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan was one of several keynote speakers at a closing dinner that featured the presentation of the first Haitian National Women's Platform to Haiti's President Michel Martelly, who accepted the framework outlining the group's public policy recommendations and agreed to meet with the women leaders to consider steps for the platform's implementation.
The program marked the launch of the Global Ambassadors Program, a Vital Voices and Bank of America partnership. Vital Voices is an international nongovernmental organization that advances women's leadership as a vehicle for transformative change in economic development, human rights and political participation. Its international staff and team of over 1,000 partners, pro bono experts and leaders have trained and mentored more than 12,000 emerging women leaders from over 144 countries since 1997.
“The creation of new networks and access to mentors are critical to the success of women leaders.”
The goal of the Global Ambassadors Program is to help emerging women leaders from countries around the world more successfully develop as leaders and impact the economic growth and development of their communities. The program will mobilize leading professionals — from business, government and nonprofits, as well as women leaders from Bank of America — with female mentees to provide them with valuable tools and resources.
“The creation of new networks and access to mentors are critical to the success of women leaders,” says Alyse Nelson, Vital Voices' president and CEO. “The Global Ambassadors Program offers emerging women leaders in developing countries an important opportunity to forge strong relationships based on a shared commitment to strengthening communities.”
“At Bank of America, we know from our long history of investing in leadership development, both within our own company and externally, that this is a proven path to make an impact and ultimately help strengthen communities and their economies,” says Finucane. “The Global Ambassadors Program builds upon our existing investments, making them truly global in scope. The initiative complements our work to support the leadership and service of men and women through partnerships such as 1000 Women for Mentoring and the Cherie Blair Foundation, all of which contribute to our efforts to strengthen leaders around the world, helping them connect to their communities and creating a better environment in which to live and work.”
Why Invest in Women?
Meaningful disparities persist between men and women, particularly in the developing world. According to the International Labour Organization, the proportion of women formally participating in the global labor force in 2008 reached only 51.7%, compared with 77.7% for men in the same year.1 Moreover, women represent two-thirds of the world's poorest people and make up the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on a dollar or less per day.2
“Perhaps even more compelling, there are strong indicators that investing in women drives economic growth, improving lives for individuals, families and communities,” says Candace Browning, head of BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, who will also be participating as a mentor for the program. “Economic analyses show a significant statistical correlation between gender equality and the level of development of countries. Women can be powerful drivers of economic development.”3
“The most important determinant of a country's competitiveness is its human capital — the skills, talent and productivity of its workforce, with women accounting for half of the potential talent base in the world,” says Browning. She notes that studies done by the World Economic Forum confirm a strong correlation between gender equality and a country's GDP per capita as well as its level of competitiveness.4 “Ultimately,” says Browning, “empowering women results in a more efficient use of a country's human capital.”
How The Program Works
A Global Ambassador Reflects
Developing women leaders worldwide to strengthen communities and improve economic growth.
Justine Metz, Global Wealth & Investment Management marketing executive with Bank of America, served as one of the bank's first global ambassadors during the program's inaugural event in Haiti. While there, she engaged with other mentors from around the world, and with Haitian women leaders from the public and private sectors.
“It was such an inspiring group of people,” Metz says. “Most notable to me was meeting my mentee, women's rights activist Danielle Saint-Lôt. She hand-picked me because she said she ‘knows nothing about marketing’ and needs help. She founded Vital Voices Haitian/Caribbean chapter, Femmes en Democratie (Women in Democracy). She lost her home in the 2010 earthquake, and she and her 15-year-old daughter moved in with her 82-year-old mother. She is a single mother thinking of running for Senate to help advance what she and many others see as key issues in Haiti. The president of Haiti, Michel Martelly, offered her the role of ambassador to the U.S., but she stayed in Haiti because she believes the country is at a critical crossroads and she wants to be part of the solution.”
During the event's various workshops and panels, Metz worked with the participants to develop the Women's Platform to present to the Haitian president. The platform focused on economic opportunities and education, infrastructure, healthcare and several other important issues.
“I was surprised to discover that what I do in my day job is valuable to these women, and I was thrilled to be able to add some tangible value to the platform discussion,” Metz says. The presentation of the Women's Platform was well-received, and the president agreed to meet further with the women to discuss its implementation.
“There was an amazing spirit among these women,” says Metz. “They believe that they can save this country and they are taking action. I've been in touch with Danielle several times since my return from Haiti, and I'm looking forward to continuing working as a mentor with her — and learning from her as well — as we continue to work for Haiti's future.”
Global Wealth & Investment Management is a division of Bank of America Corporation.
As part of the Global Ambassadors Program, emerging women leaders are paired with established leaders — the global ambassadors — from the business, nonprofit, media and government sectors worldwide who will provide mentoring support and guidance. Ambassadors and emerging leaders come from diverse backgrounds, with demonstrated levels of high achievement and potential. Over time, ambassadors and their mentees will help build critical communications, advocacy and business skills and develop strategies for emerging leaders to advance their work and positively impact their communities. Vital Voices and Bank of America expect to match global ambassadors with mentees in several countries each year; in 2012, in addition to Haiti, ambassadors will provide mentoring in South Africa, India and Argentina.
Among the many confirmed global ambassadors are Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast; Inez McCormack, chair of the Participation and the Practice of Rights Project, Northern Ireland; Susan A. Davis, chair of Susan Davis International and chair of the Board, Vital Voices; Baroness Mary Goudie, House of Lords in the United Kingdom; and Chelsea Clinton, former first daughter of the United States and NBC News correspondent.
Mentoring Makes the Difference
These mentoring relationships will typically start with a conference or similar event that brings together ambassadors and emerging leaders to focus on important social issues. But these events are really only the very beginning of the mentoring relationships, which will continue and be defined by each individual mentor and mentee.
Mentoring is the heart of the Global Ambassadors Program. “It is a critical path to leadership,” says Vital Voices' Alyse Nelson. “We believe that it accelerates that path and is essential to the success of women leaders everywhere. Women leaders invest in shared progress by taking new skills and access to information and networks and sharing them with others, creating a ripple effect of positive change around the world.”
“We see significant opportunities to support and mentor women leaders around the world.”
“Our research5 reveals that in many developing countries, women are well-positioned to enter the workforce as leaders and help drive economic growth,” says Candace Browning. “In other regions, women would benefit from broader access to opportunities to develop as leaders to strengthen the communities where they live. In both of these situations, however, we know mentorship is crucial to help women drive economic, political and social change. The Global Ambassadors Program will allow females in high-level positions to mentor women around the world and help build a network of talented leaders who will foster positive change in their communities and globally.”
Investing in Women, Strengthening Communities
“The mentoring program in Haiti was a resounding success for everyone,” says Browning, “and it bodes well for this year's upcoming forums in South Africa, India and Argentina.” Each mentoring program will have a different focus, but it will always be on critical issues within that particular region. “The program in South Africa, for instance, will focus on defining the challenges associated with increasing women's leadership in public life and begin to identify action steps and tangible solutions. Currently in development, the program in India will center on the link between mentorship and leadership and economic development. Its unique format is structured around satellite trips, where each Global Ambassador will travel to her respective mentee's city for site visits and mentoring, and then reconvene in Mumbai with their mentees to participate in a public forum.
“Our goal, in investing in these women leaders around the world,” says Browning, “is to help accelerate their leadership paths, address economic disparities and other critical social issues and create a more prosperous and secure world.”
1 Economist Intelligence Unit, Women's Economic Opportunity Index, 2010.
2 Marcoux, A., “The Feminization of Poverty: Claims, Facts and Data Needs.” Population and Development Review, United Nations Women Watch, latest available data, March 1998.
3 “Groundbreakers: Using the Strength of Women to Rebuild the World Economy,” Ernst & Young, 2009.
4 World Economic Forum 2010 Gender Gap Report.
5 Global Macro Viewpoint:Global girl power: BofAML Global Research report, March 6, 2012.
Some of the featured participants are not employees of U.S. Trust. The opinions and conclusions expressed are not necessarily those of U.S. Trust or its personnel.