Celebrating Five Years of Advancing Women’s Leadership and Economic Empowerment: Chicago, Illinois

Zoë Dean-Smith, Vice President, Global Leadership Programs

Zoë Dean-Smith

In May of this year, the Global Ambassadors Program (GAP) landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the first U.S. stop of our signature women’s leadership and mentoring partnership with Bank of America. That extraordinary week kicked off a celebration of our five-year anniversary of GAP – and it was the first of three stops in the U.S. this year to mark the occasion.

Next week, we head to Chicago, Illinois, for our fifteenth program since launching in Haiti in 2012. In November, we take GAP to Los Angeles.

If Charlotte was any indication, we are anticipating a week of transformational change as 11 global and Chicago-based women leaders (mentees) in business and social enterprise join 11 senior women executives (Global Ambassadors, or mentors) for one-on-one mentoring and strategic workshops designed to strengthen their leadership skills, organizational management and financial acumen.

In addition to Chicago-based Global Ambassadors and mentees, we’ll welcome participants from Australia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Italy, Philippines, Turkey and Mexico. The mentors represent a range of industries – from banking and finance to media and law, and the mentees come from civil society, green energy design and public relations organizations.

In Charlotte, we knew that cross-cultural mentorship – pairing global mentees and mentors with American counterparts – could foster innovative connections and collaborations throughout the cohort.

I heard from Juna Mathema of Nepal last week. She was mentored by local Charlotte executive Moira Quinn and they instantly hit it off. Not only did Juna go home with solid skills in financial management for strengthening her business, but she carried with her a renewed commitment to women’s advocacy.

Our program is a deep investment of mentorship, leadership development and organizational management skills building and it is always our hope that this individual investment will be paid forward. Today, Juna’s leadership is making an impact in Kathmandu and beyond. Since her return home, she has recruited a record number of women to a local business association and she’s been making her mark as a trainer and judge in the entrepreneur and business start-up community.

Stories like Juna’s mirror the impact data we’ve been collecting: A majority of mentees reports an increase in leadership confidence after the program; they’ve implemented changes to their strategic and business plans; and they’ve paid forward the investment made in them by creating mentorship programs at home. Read our blog to learn more about women like Juna, alumnae who transfer new skills and connections made through GAP to make positive change in their communities.

We’re proud of our partnership with Bank of America and our shared commitment to advancing women’s leadership and economic empowerment. Tracking our progress is critical as we grow and evolve the program to meet the training and capacity building needs of our participants as they navigate tough business and organizational challenges.

What’s also important, and I’m reminded of this every time I read an update from a past Global Ambassador or mentee, are the incredible friendships and lasting connections made during one week together in cities around the globe. Through the one-on-one mentorship and across the cohorts, the Global Ambassadors Program has nurtured an ever-expanding network of unstoppable women leaders making our world a better place.

Don’t miss: Our public forum, Women Driving Social and Economic Progress, takes place Thursday, September 14, and features Anne Finucane, vice chairman, Bank of America, in conversation with Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Follow #WomenLead and join the dialogue with GAP participants and thought leaders on women’s economic empowerment.

Read our GAP Chicago blogs.

Meet our GAP Chicago participants below, and be sure to follow #GlobalAmbassadors all next week for updates.



Amina Evangelista Swanepoel
Founding Executive Director, Roots of Health

Mollie Collavita
Regional Managing Director, Metropolitan Region, Private Banking & Investment Group, Merrill Lynch 

Arzu Tekir
Country Director, WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities

Andrea Montalvo
News Anchor, Director/Producer, “Ausencias”

Asha Bhat
CEO, Southern Aboriginal Corporation

Kathy Pickus
Divisional Vice President for Sustainability, Abbott

Courtney White
President & Founder, Culinary Care

Laurel Bellows
Founding Principal, The Bellows Law Group, P.C. 

Judie Caribeaux
Executive Director, Family Shelter Service

Ann Thorn
Operations Executive, Mortgage and Vehicle Servicing Operations, Bank of America

Katrin Klingenberg
Executive Director & Co-Founder, Passive House Institute US

Lourdes Melgar
President, Mexican Chapter, International Women’s Forum

Kelly Fair
 Founder & Executive Director,  Polished Pebbles

Eleanor “Tabi” Haller Jorden 
President & CEO, The Paradigm Forum GmbH

Kimberley Eberl
CEO & Founder, Motion PR

Selin Beceni
Partner, BTS & Partners

Kristy Gilliard
CEO, Five Star Media
South Africa

Shelly Porges
Managing Director, Reservoir Q Global LLC

Loredana Introini
Director Coordinator, Fondazione Falcone

Megan Bendis
Executive Vice President, Publicity, Universal Pictures

Shafia Shama
Owner, M/S Shama

Sylvia Sanchez Alcantara
Founder, Retos Femeninos & Tu Reto Emprendedor