Mentoring Women in Business Programme
Across physical and cultural distances, people from around the world are coming together to change lives. By combining mentoring with technology, the Mentoring Women in Business Programme is pioneering a new way of supporting women entrepreneurs…
Many women in developing and emerging markets have the ideas and ambition to become successful entrepreneurs but are held back by barriers such as lack of access to business skills, technology, networks and finance. In response, the Foundation has developed an innovative solution that combines mentoring with technology to offer cross-border support to women entrepreneurs.
We match women in developing and emerging countries with male and female mentors around the world. Using our online platform, they spend 12 months working one-on-one to achieve key business goals. Participants build their business skills and digital literacy through our trainings, and become part of a global community of committed, ambitious entrepreneurs who are invested in each other’s success.
The programme boosts confidence, improves business performance and ultimately creates wealth for the entrepreneurs we support.
Our definition: Mentoring is a supportive and inspirational relationship based on trust and mutual respect, and benefits accrue to both participants. The mentor helps the mentee become what she aspires to be and realise her potential.
The mentoring in this programme is done online using our specially-designed platform, which allows for great flexibility and cross-border networking and learning.
Research shows that online mentoring makes it possible for those who might otherwise be excluded due to their gender or geographical location to participate in mentoring relationships. The mentees and mentors in this programme have been able to gain a fresh perspective, widen their networks to a global level and build life-changing relationships over thousands of miles.
Mentees and mentors meet online at least two hours a month over the course of the year.
The benefits of a mentoring relationship are tremendous – for both mentees and mentors. From building new skills to rejuvenating interest in your work, making new contacts and forging a bond with someone in another part of the world, mentoring truly presents some invaluable opportunities for everyone involved.
The benefits also extend beyond individuals. The women we work with are pioneering change-makers, poised to become successful entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities.
Women who are financially independent have greater control over their own lives and often a more influential voice in tackling injustice and discrimination. Mentoring plays a role in helping them overcome barriers they face and accelerate strides they are already making. By building their digital literacy and skills, women are in a better position to participate in political and business related decision-making processes.
From an idea and one staff member in 2010, the Mentoring Programme has developed and carved out a new space in the online mentoring field, supporting over 2,000 women entrepreneurs in 90 developing and emerging countries in its first five years. Our programme spans across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America, and continues to grow.
Of the mentees to graduate from the programme in the last financial year, 97% gained business skills, 97% built confidence, 80% found ways to access new markets and 33% were able to keep their business from failing due to participation in the programme.
The programme also provides a tremendous learning and growth opportunity for the professionals who serve as mentors, which feeds back into and inspires their work at their own companies. In our last financial year, 96% of mentors reported benefitting personally from the programme, including by building communication, mentoring or leadership skills, learning about a new culture or market, or gaining inspiration and motivation.
Seeing someone else's dream become reality changes you forever. You make friends for life through this experience.
- Carmen, a Mentor from Switzerland
The mentoring relationship is at the heart of this programme. Technology enables participants to forge bonds across thousands of miles. A woman entrepreneur and her mentor can have a tea or hold a strategy session over video chat, collaborate on projects, brainstorm solutions to challenges and celebrate achievements as if they were in the room together.
Over the course of a year, the two become invested in each other’s successes and merge their talents to make inimitable strides together. The Foundation’s dedicated team is on hand to provide support and resources throughout the mentoring relationship. On average, mentees and mentors meet at least two hours a month and budget additional time to attend webinars or use our forum.
Our exclusive online platform makes it possible for mentees and mentors from around the world to connect, access trainings and resources, share ideas, build their networks and support one another.
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey in any context, but particularly for the women in our programme. Some set up businesses without the support of their families. Others live in areas far away from other women entrepreneurs who might appreciate what they are going through. Our online community offers a critical support system. Through our interactive forum, participants can work together on solutions to challenges and forge connections over thousands of miles.
A mentee in Rwanda might ask for advice on marketing a product in our online forum and - within minutes - could have responses from a marketing expert in Canada, a sales executive in South Africa or a shop owner in Malaysia.
We also host inspiring webinars that offer business advice and local events where participants can meet in person. With hundreds of pioneering, ambitious entrepreneurs and professionals on board, the possibilities for collaboration and idea-generation are endless.
Training is an integral part of the programme. Participants and alumni have ample opportunities to build their digital literacy and gain skills that are relevant to the business world. Before being matched, participants go through an online training course, which ensures they have the same foundation and tools to build a fruitful mentoring relationship. Videos, podcasts and summary documents cover cross-cultural mentoring, setting goals and more.
Our trainings include modules on using our online platform and making the most of the networking and learning opportunities available. For those who are new to online chatting or Google tools, we have tutorials on getting started.
During the programme, participants can attend webinars on key business and inspirational topics and use resources in our online library.
We have mentoring experts on hand who guide participants every step of the way. New mentees and mentors also receive advice from current participants and alumni through our online community.
We match women entrepreneurs and mentors from around the world through three intakes each year: March, May and November. We start the selection and training processes two months before each intake starts.
Mentors are men and women from diverse sectors who give two hours a month to support a woman entrepreneur. With at least seven years of relevant experience, they are invited to apply by our corporate partners or apply independently on a rolling basis throughout the year.
Mentees are women from developing or emerging economies who have a passion for working with a mentor, are running or about to launch their own business and can meet online in English. They are nominated directly by our local partners in March and September each year.
The selection requirements ensure you’re able to thrive in the programme with the key to success being commitment. We have participants with varied experience, so chances are we’ll have a match for you. Our online application takes 20 minutes to complete and helps us find you a mentee or mentor who is a great fit.
The Cherie Blair Foundation's for Women's Mentoring Course is one of the best examples of e-learning I have experienced. I particularly like the downloadable key learning summaries of each lesson that I could refer to when preparing for my first mentoring meeting.
- Edward Kellow, Mentor and Head of Learning and Leadership, LEADE International
If selected, you will be invited to participate in our online training. Through interactive modules, videos, podcasts and summary documents, we make sure you start with the knowledge and tools you need to build a productive mentoring relationship and use our online platform. It not only builds a good foundation for starting this programme but also helps you build skills that you can transfer to your work and professional lives.
All mentees and mentors must complete the online training before being matched. It takes less than three hours to complete and can be reviewed in multiple sittings.
The magic really is in the matching. We take special care in getting to know our mentees and mentors to find them the best possible match and use a special matching algorithm built by Google to assess compatibility.
After you complete the training, our team will work to match you with a mentee or mentor who is a great fit with your background, interests and goals. There is tremendous value in intercultural exchange and an outside perspective, and our participants come from over 90 countries.
From cake decorating to cosmetic products, tourism, software development, agribusiness, office supplies, social enterprises and beyond, our mentees are pioneering, driven women who run diverse businesses that fuel economic growth and provide role models for coming generations.
We match these women with mentors who have topical expertise, outlook and energy to support them with their business goals. From management consultants to engineers, our mentors have just as diverse expertise and, most importantly, a commitment to give back.
Once you’re matched, you’ll receive information from us and start your one-on-one relationship with your mentee or mentor. This will last for one year and include twice-monthly meetings two hours a month. You might also want to budget extra time to attend webinars and use the forum.
Our team will guide you every step of the way. We offer dedicated support to ensure that both mentees and mentors get the most out of their relationships and online platform.
We’ll invite you to participate in a kick-off webinar, where you’ll receive a hearty welcome and extra training on getting started. You’ll be part of our vibrant community of accomplished entrepreneurs and professionals, and have access to a wealth of support and useful online resources.
We’ll monitor progress and check in to see how you’re doing. Other than meeting with your mentoring partner regularly, the only requirement is to complete short feedback forms to reflect on your goals and tell us how we can best support you.
The Foundation honours mentees and mentors who finish the programme. In addition to the satisfaction and benefits of their mentoring relationships, they receive a special certificate, are formally recognised as a Cherie Blair Foundation mentoring alumni and are given access to events, webinars and our platform.
Empowering Women, Broadening Horizons: An Independent Evaluation Of The Mentoring Women in Business Programme
Published: June 2016
Supported by the Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ initiative, Bank of America and Marsh & McLennan Companies, we have published this report on the results achieved by our Mentoring Women in Business Programme. Since its pilot in 2010, the programme has supported over 2,000 women entrepreneurs in over 90 low and middle income countries. This report examined outcomes from the programme’s first five cohorts of mentee and mentor graduates.