23/01/2012 17:58 GMT | Updated 24/03/2012 05:12 GMT

Why Women Should Become Mentors

It's over 100 years since the women's rights movement was born, but some predict it will be another 100 years before women executives in the UK finally achieve equal pay.

The UK of course is not the only country where this problem still exists. A sizeable pay gap between men and women's wages also persists across the rest of Europe and in the US. Across the world, women are less likely to get promoted, be appointed to board level or become successful entrepreneurs.

The reasons why are well-known. I've often spoken on how more needs to be done to support women with childcare and how quotas are now necessary to ensure equal representation of women in boardrooms, and these remain important for progress. But there is another way forward - women can also help themselves through mentoring. I'm not referring to women seeking mentors, important as that is. Rather, I want to focus on women becoming mentors themselves. Women who mentor others' experience benefits to their own careers in the process of helping someone else.

It's national mentoring month in the US, with a focus on youth mentoring, and this is a wonderful way to get involved. One of my favourite UK charities, Kid's Company, is a great example of youth mentoring done well. Whether its youth mentoring or someone within your company or an entrepreneur, being a mentor offers a way to build up your own skills and give back at the same time.

Five reasons to start mentoring today:

1) Build up leadership skills

Mentoring is a natural way to build up leadership skills. Nurturing talent is an important part of being a leader and mentoring someone is a great way to develop that skill.

2) Expand your horizons

When you engage in a mentoring relationship, you're forced to see things from another's point of view. Whether it is because you're working with someone from another culture, dealing with another type of business or working with a different age group, mentoring gets you thinking in new and different ways.

3) Network with like-minded businessmen & women

Join a mentoring programme where you are able to talk with other mentors and network. Being a mentor can offer an opportunity to expand your own business contacts and work your way up the ladder.

4) Revitalise interest in your own career

By helping a mentee clarify his or her goals, you'll re-examine your own. Mentoring can be the spark that leads to renewed commitment to your own business or career.

5) Give back to others in need

This is reason enough. As one of my foundation's mentors said, it is reward enough to know that I've helped a small business owner in Palestine achieve her dreams. It's an incredibly rewarding way to give back to others - not a hand-out but a hand up. Being a mentor can provide you with an opportunity to help the mentee achieve what he or she aspires to be.

My foundation runs an e-mentoring programme with male and female mentors who give inspiration and advice to pioneering business women in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. These mentors boost the confidence of the women entrepreneurs in the programme, improve their business performance and ultimately help them increase profits in the long term. In return, mentors benefit from training, networking and the opportunity to give back.

Find out how you can get involved:

Follow us on Twitter: @CherieBlairFndn@eMentor4Women