With the mentors and mentees of the Vital Voices Bank of America Global Ambassadors Program in Belfast, May 2014.

Taking advantage of jet lag – waking up bright and early in the morning – I’m reflecting on the incredible experience I just had in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Last week, I was a trainer in the Global Ambassadors Program, a fantastic partnership between Vital Voices and Bank of America, which brought together 8 mentors and 8 mentees from around the world for a week of hands-on mentoring and concurrent leadership development training. While we were in Belfast, we also participated in the International Business Women’s Conference, sponsored by Women in Business Northern Ireland.

Our hotel, the Culloden Estate & Spa

Set in the beautiful countryside outside Belfast, atop a hill overlooking a picturesque lake, the women in the Global Ambassadors Program spent hours in discussion, learning from one another and collaborating on ways to overcome their professional challenges. They also gave themselves permission to share frankly and honestly the challenges they faced as women in some rather hostile work environments. 

The mentees came from countries that had experienced or were currently involved in conflicts: Northern Ireland, Rwanda, and Somalia, to name a few. We talked about the role of women in conflict zones and learned some very powerful examples from local woman who formed the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition which participated in the Good Friday Agreement. 

One major takeaway from this program was: never underestimate the power of women (or men for that matter!) who are fed up with the status quo and who take matters into their own hands. When people decide that enough is enough, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Another takeaway has become a repeating theme of my international work: no matter how senior we are or what our industry is, there are always skills we need to build on – and public speaking is hands down one of the most important skills these women recognized as being important. It was an honor to teach them to more powerfully, confidently, and authentically connect with an audience. 

Congratulations to Vital Voices and Bank of America for an outstanding program that has bought incredible inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose to some exceptional women leaders.