Helping Women Leaders in the Asia Pacific Region Find Their Voice

Allison Shapira

Imagine this: you’re an entrepreneur whose business has grown so quickly that you can barely keep up. You fundamentally believe in your company’s success and its positive impact on the environment, but you’re unsure how to proceed. Furthermore, you’re uncomfortable being the face of the company. How in the world are you going to stand before a crowd or a TV camera and confidently, authentically promote your work and its mission?

Or maybe this: you’re running a consulting firm with a powerful vision for your indigenous community. You are using business to drive social change, but it requires you to challenge mainstream culture and its stereotypes about your community. Your voice as well as your work will change people’s perceptions of minorities, leading to a more inclusive work environment and shared economic growth.

Now imagine that each of you were matched with a successful, established leader who spent a week helping you address those challenges, who took the time to learn about you and your business and was laser-focused on how you can succeed.

When someone sees the potential that is within us, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

These examples provide a window into the Vital Voices Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Ambassadors Program that took place this month in Sydney, Australia. The program matches women leaders (mentees) who are at a tipping point in their professional, business, or leadership paths with more established women leaders (Global Ambassadors) for a week of intense learning and mentorship.

An incredibly humbling experience, I had the opportunity to serve as the communication trainer and coach for this program. I helped the participants learn to speak with confidence – in public and on camera – and network with authenticity. In our week-long intensive training, we addressed questions such as:

  • How do you promote yourself and your business?
  • How do you build strategic relationships?
  • How do you use the power of the spoken word to catapult your message to the world?

Demonstrating the ‘three movements’ of public speaking

I’ve taught similar programs in Northern Ireland, South Africa, England, Argentina, and Japan. In all these programs, I’ve found that business owners and nonprofit leaders around the world face similar challenges: access to capital or funding, finding the right staff, and scaling effectively. But women around the world face those challenges and more: cultural stereotypes, expectations of a women’s role, and a relentless and ever-changing pursuit of work-life balance.

Global Ambassador Kitty Yung of Hong Kong helps mentee Khin Chaw Su Win of Myanmar practice her elevator pitch

Over the course of one week, transformational change took place. A woman terrified of public speaking learned to speak her mind; a group of women from the same country joined forces to strengthen one another’s organizations, and a woman hesitant to face her potential realized it was less about her business and more about her social impact. As one of the Global Ambassadors said, “The power of the impact we can collectively have is extraordinary.”

At the end of the program, every single person – from the Global Ambassadors to the mentees to the trainers and staff – left more inspired and more self-aware, re-evaluating the role she could play in the world and the impact she could have on others.

When someone sees the potential that is within us, there is no limit to what we can achieve. Now, we should ask the question, How can we find that potential in others? This is key to helping people find their voice and their courage to speak.

Allison Shapira is the CEO/Founder of Global Public Speaking LLC (, a communication training firm specialized in helping people find their voice and their courage to speak. Stemming from her experience as a Harvard lecturer, former opera singer, and TEDx speaker, Shapira writes, speaks, and coaches on the power of speaking with authenticity and confidence.