BC: In a time of economic hardship across the world, what are some of the ways that investing in women has improved local economies?
AN: I’ve seen things every day that I’ve become inspired by. For example, Vital Voices mentored a woman named Maria Pacheco in Guatemala. She was driven to the mountains, where she became an organic farmer, after war broke out in her city. Eventually, she made her way to a local village. The living conditions were so unthinkably bad that women told stories of having to choose which of their children would eat that day.
Vital Voices connected her to communities with markets selling indigenous products and she was able to form incredible partnerships. Two years after getting involved with Vital Voices in 2006, she asked me to visit Guatemala. I travelled to Guatemala and I was stunned: this woman had brought other women in Central America together, forming a group exercising the ideas and values of Vital Voices. The women had even begun to reach out to girls in the community. They wanted these young people to see a different future. And this was all from investing in one woman. When women are given the opportunity, it has been proven to pay off time and time again. Women feel compelled to use power through people and uplift through their leadership style. In fact, many male leaders can learn from their style.
BC: How important is mentorship to the success of young women?
AN: Mentorship is critical. Mentors need to step up and if you need guidance, don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve found that people generally want to be part of young women’s success stories.
BC: What is one quality that all the women in your book share?
AN: Every female leader I’ve met knows what she stands for, and that’s core. They have this amazing internal guiding compass and they lead themselves in their own lives before leading others. These women have strong convictions, but also, they wouldn’t necessarily define themselves as leaders. They started to make changes, not because they wanted power, but to improve their communities.
What is was like to write the book and what women should keep in mind, up next