March 7, 2023
Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Middle East and Africa, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce
For women to experience greater equality and more economic opportunities, it’s important that they have access to networks and programs specifically designed to support and empower women and the communities they belong to. One such initiative is The Global Women in Management (GWIM) program, a partnership between Counterpart International and ExxonMobil designed to develop the management and leadership potential of female professionals worldwide.
In the decade since its inception, GWIM has provided training and skills development to women in remote communities, including a recently-launched special program for Ukrainian refugees in Romania. Dr. Ann Hudock, President and CEO of Counterpart International, and Jim Jones, Director of Global Community Programs and Strategy at ExxonMobil, spoke at the 13th Annual International Women’s Day Forum from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation about GWIM and how their program is having a positive impact on the world’s most vulnerable women.
The Long-Standing GWIM Program Continues to Support Female Empowerment
For over four decades, said Hudock, the GWIM has been empowering women by helping them improve upon skills such as advocacy, public speaking, and budgeting, transforming them at four levels: personally, within their family, at the community level, and nationally.
“It is so much more than training,” Hudock said. “We often see that through the economic empowerment activities, when women start to earn some more money, they start to be taken a little differently in the home… [And] at the community level, there's a ripple effect that gets created from the work that's being done.”
Working together with the ExxonMobil Foundation, the program has gone on to have a major impact on the lives of women around the world; Jones credits the program’s success to the implementers.
“The funding is only one aspect of this,” Jones explained. “The partnership exists,.. works, and [is] successful because there's a funder [and]... an implementer,” Jones said, warning that relying too heavily solely on the funder can lead to devastation for a program."
“I think when you get together around the table, and everybody's viewing each other's strengths and respecting them, I think that's what makes this program,” he said.
GWIM Is Creating Opportunities for Women, Despite Economic and Global Challenges
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, GWIM was faced with a conflict — the program had previously been held as an in-person training, but due to restrictions, it was forced to change course and shift to an online program.
“[ExxonMobil] helped support us to develop the online platform that now is an asset that we can use… in this new world,” Hudock said. “It was really empowering for the women because, at a time when they were so shut behind closed doors, and their countries were closed off, we were setting up the training over a series of weeks on different time zones in order to match where they were in the world.”
The program proved to be of great importance throughout the pandemic, with women from across the globe getting in on the discussion — and its importance only grew as Ukraine began to face tremendous hardship.
“We worked with colleagues in Romania… and we were able to give psychosocial support, first and foremost, mental health and wellness training for those women,” Hudock said in reference to the women who have left Ukraine with their children, likely without job prospects or support.
The Future of the GWIM Program Is Bright
For those at the ExxonMobil Foundation, the journey of investing in women’s economic empowerment began with a seemingly simple question, according to Jones: “If you had a dollar to invest in women's economic empowerment programs, how's that dollar best spent?”
With that question in mind, the foundation went on to commission its own study to determine the optimal strategies for investing in women’s economic empowerment, creating the Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Impairment. Now, it works with GWIM to provide resources, conduct peer-to-peer training, and more.
And as the program continues to grow and transform to fit the needs of women across the globe, Hudock says there’s a need to build out the program’s network.
“I think to really see the power of this, we need to build out that network,” Hudock said. “There's the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ where as soon as women are elevated, they're cut down. We need to guard against that, and we need to recognize that women need support, they need the power in numbers, and … to keep seeing those positive role models.”