Celebrating 5 Years of Advancing Women’s Leadership and Economic Empowerment: Charlotte, North Carolina

Zoë Dean-Smith, Vice President, Global Leadership Programs

Zoë Dean-Smith

Next week, Vital Voices and Bank of America will do something remarkable together. After five years of hosting the Global Ambassadors Program (GAP) in 13 cities across six continents, the partnership will take place in the United States for the first time. We’ll bring our signature one-on-one mentoring sessions and strategic workshops to mixed cohorts of women leaders from around the world and from the U.S., and I cannot wait to see the cross-cultural connections they make as they strengthen their leadership skills, organizational management and financial acumen.

Our 2017 itinerary features stops in three U.S. cities: Charlotte, Chicago and Los Angeles. Next week in Charlotte, we pair 12 women leaders from countries around the world and North and South Carolina, with 12 senior women executives from Turkey, Senegal, Ethiopia and the U.S. The businesses and NGOs represented range from mobile philanthropy to organic farming, and from healthcare management to science and technology education.

Since we started GAP in 2012, we’ve observed striking differences in the ways women must navigate leadership in the business world and NGO community depending on the economic, political, social and legal environment where they live and work. But one thing I’ve learned from a career advancing global women’s entrepreneurship is that they all struggle with common challenges holding them back. Our program addresses them head on, and what’s more – we offer a safe space for breakthrough change.

I recently asked all of our Global Ambassador alumnae for one piece of advice to share with mentees as they begin their GAP journeys. The words of Luz Maria de la Mora (Mexico 2014 Global Ambassador) are powerful:

Do not minimize a problem, a situation, your fears or your dreams. Be as candid and honest as you would be with yourself, nobody will judge you and by just being completely open you may be able to find amazing and immediate solutions. You will do yourself a favor and you will make progress at an amazing speed. You may be able to identify simple but powerful solutions to situations you think are overwhelming for you. Be as open as you can! 

Don’t miss: Our public forum, Women Driving Social and Economic Progress, takes place Wednesday, May 10, and features Andrea Smith, chief administrative officer, Bank of America, in conversation with Christy Turlington, founder and CEO, Every Mother Counts. The event will feature lively discussions with GAP participants and key thought leaders on women in the global economy, entrepreneurship and the power of partnership.

Year after year, mentees report growth after their participation in GAP – increases in revenue, number of new employees hired, and expansion of networks – to name just a few of the data points we track. Often, however, it is in the small, informal moments during our week together where we witness transformational change – a lunchtime conversation with another mentor, or a bus ride sitting next to one of the trainers – where wider perspectives are shared, leading to unexpected, out-of-the-box solutions.

I can’t wait to share their progress with you! Meet our GAP Charlotte participants below, and be sure to follow #GlobalAmbassadors all next week for updates.

Read the next blog.

Check out the Bank of America website and its coverage of the Charlotte program here.



Apra Kuchhal
Owner, Handi Restaurant

Catherine Wilson Horne
President & CEO, Discovery Place

Brenda Harris
Director, BPN Healthcare Concepts, LLC

Nigest Haile
Founder & Executive Director, Center for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment

Ibilola Amao
Principal Consultant, Lonadek Consulting

Michelle Moore
Head of Digital Branding, Bank of America 

Juna Mathema
Managing Director, Blitz Media Private Ltd

Moira Quinn
COO, Charlotte Centre City Partners

Karen Bennetts
Founder, Owner, Little Red Bird, LLC

Oulimata Sarr
Regional Economic Empowerment Advisor, UN Women

Maria Josefina Urzaiz Caceres
Co-Founder Hammock Boutique Inc.
Mexico & USA

Karen Starns
Senior Vice President, Global Marketing, Pearson

Melissa Bodford
Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO uBack

Dilek Dayinlarli
Founder & Managing Partner, ScaleX

Norm “Anak” Bunnak
Director, VillageWorks Songkhem

Debra Plousha Moore
System Chief of Staff, Executive Vice President, Carolinas Health Care

Patience Magodo
Managing Consultant, Tafadzwa Ne Chiedza Development Trust

Dawn Chanland
Associate Professor of Management, Queen’s University of Charlotte

Rana El Chemaitelly
CEO/Founder, The Little Engineer

Terri McCullough
Former CEO, Consultant, No Ceilings Project, Women and Girls Empowerment

Sandi Kronick
CEO, Founder, Eastern Carolina Organics LLC

Kathy Parks
Senior Credit Review Executive, Bank of America

Valrie Grant
Managing Director, GeoTechVision

Marie Wieck
General Manager, IBM Blockchain