No country can develop itself further without women empowerment. Realizing the fact led Geeta Jain, a veteran in business management, to start a company whose key focus would be mentoring women to build their dream careers. MentorW, the company Geeta has been running successfully now for almost two years now, has taken the responsibility of making women professionals more advanced in skills and more confident in how they should deal with their corporate life.
Geeta Jain, Founder & Mentor, MentorW, shares with Business Upside India why her company is different, what she aims with MentorW and what is furthermore needed for women entrepreneurs and employees to shine. Here is an edited excerpt of the interview.
Edited Excerpt of the Interview
Business Upside [BU]: How did the Idea of this Business Come to you?
Geeta Jain [GJ]: As a business leader who has managed large teams and organizations over the past 27 years, I have believed in mentoring my team members and have enjoyed doing that. I also feel that I would have benefitted immensely if I had a mentor to guide me as I started my career. Mentoring allows people to create deep relationships of mutual trust and seek guidance and support that may not be readily available otherwise. Also, I recognize that women need personalized guidance and support more than their male counterparts simply because there are fewer women leaders and role models for them to look up to and also because women play multiple roles in their personal lives, which makes their professional lives more challenging. In addition, each individual has a different context that defines their aspirations as well as constraints; therefore, to make a sustainable impact, there is a need to invest time to provide individualized guidance and support.
I feel very passionately about the need to nurture woman talent and improve gender diversity in the workplace. As such, I decided to dedicate myself to mentoring women professionals. Besides myself, several other senior business leaders – both men and women, have joined me as mentors to offer their experiences, learnings, and perspectives to women.
[BU]: What is your Fundamental Ambition with MentorW?
[GJ]: MentorW has been set up with the singular objective of mentoring women professionals to help them excel in their careers. We would like to see women take up leadership roles (recognizing the huge gap at the moment) and for them to sustain their careers alongside their personal lives. Apart from 1:1 mentoring that we provide to women to focus on their specific career goals, there are group mentoring sessions focused on “corporate life skills” covering multiple dimensions of the corporate world. The mentees learn from the experiences of the mentors as well as peers through these sessions and also get an opportunity to share their individual perspectives and challenges in a safe space.
[BU]: How do you Differentiate your Company from Others?
[GJ]: Unlike coaching, which focuses on developing specific skills, mentoring aims at a more holistic support system where the mentee gets an opportunity to explore her strengths as well as define career paths to achieve professional and personal goals. Mentors act as role models for mentees; therefore, the mentors must bring the credentials and track record as well as demonstrated behaviours that the mentees look up to and want to emulate. Also, mentor-mentee relationships cannot be transactional, and these are formed for the long term and transcend professional and personal boundaries. At MentorW, we aim to build a holistic support system for mentees that they can leverage and grow over time.
[BU]: As you are Working on Women Entrepreneurs, what should this Sector Further Focus On?
[GJ]: Several women entrepreneurs have participated in our mentoring programs and gained immensely from the experiences of mentors as well as peers. We recognize that women entrepreneurs have specific needs, including access to resources and brand building. Building a solid network and leveraging it well is an area we focus on with entrepreneurs. Women, in general, tend not to focus on this and, in fact, shy away from leveraging their network. Recognizing the need and learning how to do it is critical.
[BU]: What Setbacks you had to Face when you Started this Journey?
[GJ]: As with any new initiative, there are moments of doubt and lack of clarity. Having a good network of professionals I have built over the years has helped me through those moments as I had the opportunity to socialize my ideas, seek multiple perspectives, and strengthen the value proposition. Brand building is a gradual process, and I have learned to be patient and perseverant. Also, being open to the idea of unlearning and re-learning has been necessary. Having walked up the corporate ladder, one takes a lot for granted, whereas the idea of starting from scratch can be unnerving and exhilarating at the same time.
[BU]: How do you Market your Business?
[GJ]: The team of mentors at MentorW is one of the highly qualified and accomplished business leaders. The brand equity of the team, coupled with the intent to support woman talent, is what MentorW offers to women professionals. We have created proprietary content that is entirely experiential and extremely relevant to the audience and is being delivered by people who have “walked the talk.” This is why the testimonials from our participants have been the best way to build our brand. Through social media and direct conversations with the target audience, we are building awareness of the program offerings and how this benefits them.
MentorW works with three segments – individual women professionals across different stages of their careers, corporates looking to nurture their woman talent, as well as educational institutions where we interact with students preparing to join the workforce.
[BU]: How do you Incorporate Modern Technology to Run your Business?
[GJ]: MentorW was set up during Covid; therefore, it has operated in a virtual environment for the most part. Most of the mentoring sessions are done over video calls. This has enabled a broader outreach, and we have participants as well as mentors from different parts of the world. This would not have been possible without the availability as well as the acceptability of technology. Equally, social media, LinkedIn and Whatsapp in particular, have been important vehicles of communication and outreach for us. Besides, all the underlying processes, such as registration, documentation, payment, content sharing, and feedback, are all online and highly efficient for the users as well as MentorW.
[BU]: What has been your Highest Satisfaction so Far?
[GJ]: The trust that the mentees have posed in us through our programs and their testimonials stating that this has been a “life changer” for most of them is highly gratifying. In addition, mentoring is a 2-way street. As mentors, we learn through each interaction which keeps us “intellectually young.” I must also say that the peer set – the like-minded team of mentors that have come together at MentorW fueled by the same passion, has been a bonanza for me (as well as for the other mentors).
[BU]: What is the Next Goal you wish to Accomplish?
[GJ]: Our objective is to continuously increase our outreach and make ourselves available to as many girls and women as possible. We have already had the privilege of working with some premier business schools and universities, and we would like to expand on this and be available as a “go-to” resource for mentoring girls preparing to get into the workforce. Based on some highly encouraging responses from the women in the workforce, we plan to increase our footprint in the corporate segment. However, our core remains our “open” programs where women sign up on their own for their self-development.
[BU]: What does Success Mean to you?
[GJ]: This metric continues to evolve over the years for each person. Whereas in the past, success related more to personal accomplishments – titles, recognition, financial security, etc., it now has a very different meaning. At this stage, I define success as synonymous with “impact” – the impact on individuals we mentor as well as the collective impact of the initiative on working women, the workplace and society, even though it might be a drop in the ocean.