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What Big Business Can Teach Entrepreneurs about Purpose

July 28, 2017, 1:53 PM UTC

Rocío González always knew her company’s mission, but she didn’t recognize the impact it could have until a recent trip from Argentina to the U.S.

González was one of 21 women business leaders who traveled to the States this spring for the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership. In its 12th year, the program matches women from countries ranging from Poland to Zimbabwe with some of the top female executives in the U.S. This year’s mentors hailed from companies including Fidelity, Mastercard (MA, +0.34%), IBM (IBM, +0.12%), Accenture, and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ, -0.89%).

One of González’s mentors was Shelley Diamond, the chief client officer at global advertising organization Y&R. Diamond held a strategic planning session to help González “understand what is she wanted to achieve and how we could focus her goals.”

González’s company sells accessories made from discarded materials such as plastics and leftover textiles, but the exercise helped the entrepreneur realize its social impact. The three-week program helped “give me the confidence to feel that my project has sway and that I am on the right track,” González says.

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The partnership’s mentees “want to see how women conduct business in this country because the countries that they come from, sometimes there are no women they can look to and learn from,” says Diamond.

“When it comes to women’s leadership, what we’ve seen is those most effective women all say I had a great mentor,” says Alyse Nelson, CEO of Vital Voices. The non-profit helps runs the orientation and debriefing piece of the programming and stays connected to alumnae when they return to their home countries. Nelson adds, “You can’t ever fully pay your mentor back, but you can choose to pay it forward.”

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we continue to highlight more of the program’s mentors and mentees. Click here to see the rest of the series.