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OFFSHORE PERSPECTIVE

To Reach Full Potential, What Working Women Need the Most
 

With more than eight million women-led businesses, the United States tops the list of best countries for female entrepreneur-ship, according to Dell’s first-ever global index to measure female entrepreneur-ship around the world 
 

           
 

To mentor or not to mentor! that is the question. Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, led a study and discovered that both men and women who benefitted from a mentor were more likely to ask their boss for a ‘stretch’ assignment and more likely to take their place at the decision-making tables.

The simple act of encouraging an individual and believing in that individual can instill a confidence for them to reach beyond! I am a big advocate of mentoring in corporations, and have been, at different times, on both the contributing and receiving end of the process. We all need someone to believe in us, coach us, be a devil’s advocate, listen to us and offer constructive feedback. I know this first-hand from my personal experience as a first generation immigrant and the first in my family to work in corporate America. I have had my share of mentors who have challenged me to go beyond my potential to craft my career.

Mentoring is powerful, both formal and informal. Informal mentoring relationships are more casual, spontaneous and infrequent in structure. These mentoring relationships take on many forms and can apply to all ages and all walks of life. While they can be very helpful, there are limitations in terms of access to mentors and that produces the uneven measuring of success.

On the other hand, companies with formal mentoring programmes, in the advancement of women, can take it to the next level as scalable programmes with stated goals and role expectations. Undoubtedly, we need the benefits of mentoring to create a multicultural workforce and to foster gender diversity.

Though there are various successful mentoring models, I find training-based and executive mentoring models quite effective. UST Global, an information technology solutions and services firm, headquartered in Southern California, believes in “transforming lives” through four tenets:

• Jobs

• Training

• Technology

• Peace

We launched a national initiative, “Step IT Up America,” in Atlanta in November 2013, a programme geared to employ and train inner city minority women.

How “Step IT Up America” is a Solution for our Skills Gap

As the US economy recovers, it will face a shortage of five million workers with the necessary education and training by 2020, according to a study by researchers at Georgetown University. The total number of STEM jobs will grow 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, predicts Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

The demand for STEM workers has intensified and 80 percent of the jobs in information technology will require training. By 2018, the bulk of STEM jobs will be in Computing (71%) followed by Traditional Engineering (16%), Physical Sciences (7%), Life Sciences (4%) and Mathematics (2%).

Given the great demand for STEM workers, we felt it was vital to impart IT training to women as there are persistently lopsided male-to-female ratios in the large IT workforce. As the war for talent heats up, there is an enormous ROI in dedicating resources to cultivate, recruit, mentor and promote women in technical roles.

The “Step IT Up America” programme deftly leverages UST Global’s expertise in IT training; we have trained thousands of people in Mexico, India, USA and the United Kingdom. The programme further leverages our ability to not only impart IT training but make women ‘job ready.’

The programme equips minority women who have not had the chance to go to university, but have shown the determination to go to a community college. Our objective is to go to 10 US cities in 10 months — choosing 100 inner city women from each city — effectively training 1,000 women in 10 months.

UST Global is investing in the programme and guaranteeing women high-paying jobs upon successful completion of the 90 day training programme. Our aim is to create 5,000 new jobs for minority women in tech by 2020.

Million Women Mentors Programme and STEM

I’ve had the benefit of great mentors, both male and female, who have been committed to me, my advancement, and my career, which has now spanned over two decades. In turn, their investment in me has influenced my passionate commitment to others’ careers and professional development and advancement.

I was honoured to join the leadership committee of one of the more active groups, the Million Women Mentors Programme (MWM), an initiative by STEMconnector which promotes STEM talent. The MWM Programme is a call to action that mobilises companies and higher education groups, around the imperative of mentoring young women in STEM education and careers. We provide women with specialised outreach through workforce mentoring, paid internships and sponsorship programmes.

Encouraging Entrepreneurship

With more than eight million women-led businesses, the United States tops the list of best countries for female entrepreneurship, according to Dell’s first-ever global index to measure female entrepreneurship around the world. The research clearly supports the assertion that increased access to networks, capital and technology are critical if countries are to empower female entrepreneurship.

There are several programmes like Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Women initiative, Britain’s Aspire Fund and the International Alliance of Women’s micro lending activities which unlock economic growth by investing in women around the world.

Corporations have a Role in Goal-setting

Corporations should play a responsible role in goal setting and train their managers and leaders to inspire women during their performance appraisal sessions and encourage them to break the glass ceiling. Corporations can empower women through SMART goal-setting with goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

Training

While constant training and professional development are important to climbing the corporate ladder, women who have benefitted from mentor-protégé relationships also need formal leadership training. At UST Global, we encourage and promote clear leadership mentoring, investments in executive MBAs and one-on-one leadership training from industry veterans.

UST Global is committed to developing, advancing and retaining women leaders in the company through initiatives like “Step IT Up America” and NowU (Network of Women Ussociates) that are focussed on advancing women internally and externally by giving them the structure, environment and leadership opportunity to achieve their aspirations.

I strongly believe women need to concentrate on possibilities, have passion for the job, conviction in their own dream and believe they are winners to achieve their full potential. You have to free yourself of social and corporate limitations by embracing these four salient characteristics. In tandem corporations can play a positive role in advancing women by embracing five key initiatives: formal mentorship programmes, training, providing opportunities, responsible goal-setting and promoting entrepreneurship.

What’s noticeably heartening now is that we have some very visible, high profile women leaders in technology entrepreneurship, such as Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, Meg Whitman, Virginia Marie “Ginni” Rometty, Carol Realini and Padmasree Warrior. They are strong role models and craft the way forward for women today and for the next generations to come.

           
 

 

 
By Nikki Arora

Nikki Arora is Corporate Marketing Officer and Director Global Talent Acquisition at UST Global. The California-based firm provides IT and full service solutions for Fortune 500 and Global 1000 firms. Nikki was named “Exceptional Leader” and “Women of the Year” by the International Women Leadership Association and National Association of Professional Women.  

 


 


 

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