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Report from Eurasian Women Leaders Conference: Mentoring and Education

I have pasted portions of my report on the strategy session: The Power of Mentoring and Education, that was conducted at the Vital Voices of Eurasia: A Leadership Summit for Women and Girls, October 14-18, 2007.

Monday, October 15, 2007
The Power of Mentoring and Education

Issue to be Addressed:
How mentoring and education can leverage greater women’s leadership in business and other sectors.

Solutions Identified:
-Participants maintained that mentorship is key- Established women leaders present in this session explained that when they first entered their professions, there was a lack of women holding management positions, making female mentorship impossible. As the prevalence of women’s leadership in business and other sectors increases, the mentorship experiences that past generations lacked become more probable for our rising voices in Eurasia. This is a window of opportunity that our participants feel they need to take advantage of.
-Participants believe that it is important to disseminate a positive outlook on the future for women in business, allowing time for cultural changes to develop, progress and become accepted by the majority. They believe that faith and solidarity will be key to maintaining the momentum of the past decade.
-The session’s attendees expressed their belief that male partnerships are key in allowing for the gendered cultural perceptions of women’s leadership in business to become dismantled. They see male professionals in business and other sectors as necessary allies for creating a receptive audience in Eurasian communities.

Major Challenges of Implementing Solutions:
-Business is often thought of as a man’s domain. The number of females currently enrolled in business school is quite low. Those who are currently active in this field of study are often less active in the classroom.
-Stereotypes amongst Eurasian communities indicate that men are recognized as more competent than women. As such, many female students choose male mentors rather than female mentors, believing them to be more “credible”.
-Female competition in many parts of the region make youth and rising women leaders feel like men are “safer” or “more trust-worthy” mentors than females.
-Professional females feel as though competition creates an environment where women are hostile towards other women.
-Females rising to upper level management are often hiring male dominated staff and deputies, which disrupts the rise of female leadership for the next generation.

Best Practices for Identifying the Challenges:
-One may be able to interpret the rise of female leadership in business by referring to the number of women who are currently seeking higher education in the field of business.
-One may be able to monitor the progress of women’s leadership in business by reviewing the statistics of female owned/managed businesses as well as the number of women represented in upper-level management of large corporations.
-One may be able to reflect on that “competitive” and “hostile” dynamic between professional women as well as the gendered stereotypes regarding competency by reviewing the gender of female leaders’ staff. (i.e.- last year, X number of women were promoted to management positions, hiring an average of X support staff. Of the new hires X% were male and X% were female).

Opportunities for Building on Successes:
-The participants demonstrated that there is a will to promote women’s leadership in business and other sectors. They have tremendous faith and interest in mentoring. Given the proper resources and training, women would be ready to share their success and invest in rising generations of women.
-The participants noted having male mentors which demonstrates that, regardless of stereotypes, there are many Eurasian men who are ready and willing to support women’s leadership.
-Our youth expert indicated that although part of her subscribed to the cultural perception of male competency, she knew logically the falsehood of this stereotype. This indicates that there is an opportunity to fight this

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