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How women can succeed in the workplace during, after COVID-19

Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi and Alexis Christoforous speak with Wings for Growth CEO Varsha Waishampayan about women in the workplace and why mentorship is so important.

Video Transcript


ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome back to "The First Trade." The past few months have shed light on a number of social issues in our country, including gender inequality in the workplace. One company, Wings for Growth, is looking to help fix that by offering a holistic approach to mentorship and ways women can make changes in their careers as we get back on our road to recovery from COVID-19.

Joining us now to discuss is Wings for Growth's CEO Varsha Waishampayan. Varsha, good to have you with us. Thanks for being here.

Wings for Growth I understand is a nonprofit. How-- what is your approach for mentoring women in the workplace, especially during this very challenging time?

VARSHA WAISHAMPAYAN: So thank you for having me. I appreciate it, and good morning to you all as well.

Look, I spent almost close to three decades on Wall Street and worked for large companies, and I feel that the mentoring needs to have a very grounds-up approach and something that we offer. And at this time, it's even more important. It's very high touch. We really need to make sure that our mentors are great mentors, right? Just because somebody has a senior-executive title, it doesn't really automatically make them great mentors.

So we find great mentors. We invite them to be part of our nonprofit, and we've been very fortunate. We also have a very high-touch, outcome-based methodology that helps everyone stay on track and holds everyone involved accountable.

And lastly, I'll mention, Alexis, that we have created a multiplier effect, right? What does that mean-- that our mentees, after 10 months of being in the program and being supported by four senior people minimum, they themselves are now motivated to become mentors, and we give them those opportunities-- become mentors, become a leader. That helps them build a network, help everybody else that they can help in such trying times.

BRIAN SOZZI: What are some of the biggest challenges? Amongst the people you're mentoring right now, what are the biggest challenges they're trying to overcome?

VARSHA WAISHAMPAYAN: I think at this point we have a mixed bag, right? Some women are trying to find a job. You know, they are coming to work. Some are feeling that job is already at risk because of the economy and where we are due to pandemic. And some are just simply just laid off or furloughed, and they're looking in this tough market-- looking for a job. And the biggest challenge right now for them is to prepare themselves and stand out in millions who are applying for the same job.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You brought with you some tips or ways that women can take steps to change their careers even during this pandemic, and one of them you said was create your own board of directors. Talk to us about that.

VARSHA WAISHAMPAYAN: See, I always feel that mentors, sponsors, and coaches, they're all very important. And I feel that women need their own circle of trusted advisors, whether that's mentor or sponsor or coach or other people because everyone has a different experience, and that experience could help you.

So I personally have a lot of people who I go to for different advice, right? If I need something, I know who in my network can actually give me great advice on this. I'll go to that person. So it's not that you always have to go to one person. I think it would be great to have a board of directors, which is what we call the trusted advisors, because then you have a very holistic approach to what you're looking for because you listen to everybody, and then you internalize what you listen, and you make your own informed decisions.

BRIAN SOZZI: Varsha, why did you create Wings for Growth?

VARSHA WAISHAMPAYAN: So thank you for asking that question. Look, like I said, I spent almost three decades on Wall Street, and I'm very passionate about helping women rise to the leadership roles.

And I'll tell you very honestly, I did not make it to the top. I stayed in the middle, right? And I always felt that I could do this. I could move up. I have potential. And I felt that if I had a mentoring and coaching program like the one that I created for our mentees, I think I could have had that chance.

And I needed to do this. I really needed to do this. And more importantly, this is personal for me because my father-- he passed away a few years ago, but he was an amazing teacher, and he always reminded me that I've done some good things in my career. It's time to pay it forward. It's time to bring all my experience to women who can leverage from it. And no better way to do this than a nonprofit. And I quit my job in 2016 from PwC to start this.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Varsha, you say one of the things we need to do is write down-- physically write down what our dream job is, but then take it the next level. Upskill and reskill for that dream job. It sounds easier said than done, Varsha.

VARSHA WAISHAMPAYAN: So, look, I personally feel it's not that difficult, right? So first of all, we don't ever take time to think about what is my dream job? And we always teach our mentees to take a pause, right? Think about all the strengths that you bring to the table, everything that you are so good at. Think about what you enjoy because you're likely to be more successful if you do something you enjoy and you do something that you are very good at.

So first of all, just making sure that you are in agreement with that thought because many times we feel like, my God, real life is we got to pay the bills and I have kids to send to school and colleges. I don't have that luxury. But think about it. If you don't like what you're doing every single day, you're probably not going to be as successful.

So if you put all your energy and figuring out what you're passionate about, develop skills to get there. I think you are happy. You're likely to be much better at that job. So it's difficult, but once you understand it and you agree, it's not that difficult.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, good practical advice. Wings for Growth CEO Varsha Waishampayan, thanks so much for being with us.

VARSHA WAISHAMPAYAN: Thank you. I appreciate the time.