“The Mentoring Walks resonate with me because, as a feminist, I believe you have to use your power, your voice, your wisdom to empower the next generation of women.” So says Diane von Furstenberg, board member of Vital Voices Global Partnership, sponsor of the 135 Global Mentoring Walks in 45 countries that will take place in the coming days. These women-only walks bring together established and emerging female leaders to create authentic personal and professional connections to inspire the next generation of female change makers. And sometimes they even lead to jobs.
Vital Voices Global Partnership
Vital Voices, which has been organizing these walks for 16 years, was founded 25 years ago to support women who are taking on the world’s greatest challenges: gender-based violence, climate justice, economic inequities and political disempowerment.
The organization provides early support to women in the form of connections, increased capacity, a peer network, financial support, skills training and increased visibility for their work. Past mentees are game changers like award-winning writer Amanda Gorman, female education activist Malala Yousafzai and 20,000 other exceptional female prime ministers, award-winning innovators, human rights defenders and social entrepreneurs.
“After the return of the Taliban, my sense of loss as an Afghan woman leader was unfathomable to me,” said Muqaddesa Yourish. The former Afghan government minister, whom Vital Voices helped evacuate after the Taliban took over in August of 2021 and resettled in the US, credits Vital Voices for keeping her afloat and giving her hope. “Women’s leadership journeys are not easy and to survive and ultimately thrive, we must tap into our common emotions and experiences. And that’s Vital Voices for me.” With their help, Yourish is now a Visiting Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
Giving Back Through Mentorship
Vital Voices’ initiative to help young women navigate their career journeys through mentoring walks started organically. Geraldine Laybourne, Founder and former CEO of Oxygen Media, used to respond to requests for advice from young women by inviting them to join her morning walks. She witnessed firsthand how power expands the moment it’s shared, and helped Vital Voices scale the idea of a mentor walk to include female leaders from around the world who were looking to give back.
“I’m proud to host the New York City Walk and join women leaders hosting Walks in 130 other cities around the world— it’s so powerful,” said von Furstenberg. “Vital Voices is truly a global network of the most badass women in the world!”
Coinciding with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Global Mentoring Walks around the world bring mentors and mentees together to walk in their communities. It gives dedicated time to sharing challenges and solutions and forming supportive bonds that foster growth, confidence and leadership. This year’s theme, “Time for Audacious Action,” will be especially notable at the ten walks taking place throughout Ukraine. “Be brave like Ukrainians!” said Olga Azarova. The Founder of the Vital Voices Ukraine chapter urges women to “change the world for the better – provide truth, security, justice and peace!”
Elizabeth Buchanan, a Vital Voices board member and Chief Commercial Officer at ecommerce technology leader Rokt, met Andrea Garrido-Lecca at the New York City mentoring walk – and hired her. “Thanks to Elizabeth and the Vital Voices mentorship program, I was able to smoothly transition into a new position that was a better fit for me,” said Garrido-Lecca. “During the Walk I was able to be myself with my assigned mentor, Elizabeth, and explain what I was looking for in my career. She believed in me and vouched for me at Rokt where I continue to grow professionally every day.”
And while receiving a job offer is a great outcome, the Mentoring Walks are more about connecting with female leaders eager to share talent, experience and power.
“It’s more about the impact of having access to someone that you wouldn’t normally have,” said Alyse Nelson. The President and CEO of Vital Voices believes women lifting other women is very powerful. “The walks provide a moment where we can all be positive and find answers and give guidance to all these young women who are looking for their next steps.”
Interested in joining a Global Mentoring Walk? Find more information and register here.