Every now and then I meet a woman and think, “Dang, she is a rock star. I want to walk in her high heels.” This happened to me recently at the recent EY Entrepreneur of the Year event where I had the pleasure and privilege to meet Cherie Blair, known to many as the former “First Lady” of the UK as wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Through our conversation, I quickly discovered she is an important leader in her own right. As well as being an extremely successful lawyer (predominantly in the area of human rights) she is a committed campaigner for women and the founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.
Set up in 2008, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women was established to help women build small and growing businesses in developing and emerging markets so that they can contribute to their economies and have a stronger voice in their societies. Today, the Foundation has supported over 118,000 women across more than 80 countries, providing them with the skills, technology, networks and access to capital that they need to grow and scale their businesses. And she does all this with grace, style and a wit that will knock you down.
As I listened to Cherie recount the important work the Foundation is doing, I quickly realized that there were some tremendous synergies with our programs including the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) and our Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard research, which we announced at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Summit yesterday. Within a couple of weeks of meeting (because I had to figure out a way to work with this woman) we were able to establish a partnership that will see women from the network, as well as a handful of Dell team members, become trained as mentors to the women entrepreneurs in the Foundation’s Mentoring Women in Business Program. These professionals will work one to one with women entrepreneurs over the course of a year, helping to build their business skills, boost their confidence and, ultimately, strengthen their enterprises so that they can gain financial independence.
At Dell, we were particularly inspired by the Foundation’s approach to mentoring, which uses technology to offer cross-border support to women entrepreneurs. Mentoring relationships are facilitated through an innovative online platform which allows mentors and mentees to network, share and access resources on a wide range of key business skills and become part of a global community of ambitious entrepreneurs. Another great example of technology enabling human potential – Michael Dell’s founding principle and one we still passionately believe in at Dell.
Onstage with me yesterday at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Summit in Berlin, Germany, Cherie highlighted the important role her Foundation’s Mentoring Women in Business Program plays in empowering women entrepreneurs:
“Many women in developing and emerging economies have the ideas and ambition needed to become successful entrepreneurs, but are held back by barriers such as lack of access to technology and information, market opportunities, business skills and self-confidence. Mentoring plays a vital role in helping women overcome these barriers and access the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to take their businesses to the next level.”
Alongside its mentoring work, which has supported over 1,500 women entrepreneurs globally to date, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women also runs programs that deliver tailored business training, assist with business registration and enhance access to capital and markets on a global scale.
We’d love to hear your views on what actions are moving the needle for women entrepreneurs in your community. For more information on the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and its mentoring program, please visit www.cherieblairfoundation.org. And if you haven’t yet added your voice to Michael Dell’s in advocating for all entrepreneurs, visit www.entrepreneursunite.com now – a few seconds of your time that can make a huge impact for securing the job opportunities that the world so desperately needs. And the next time you meet a woman rock star like Cherie Blair, figure out a way to work together and change lives!