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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Wanted: A few good wo-mentors

By Barbara Frank
Special to The Toronto Sun

Unbeknownst to her four years ago, in preparing students to promote their high school program to the local community, Akela Peoples was planting the seeds for a groundswell of empowerment programs for young people -- mainly women, and many not-so-young (myself included).

Today, Women in Motion (WIM) is an icon for finding and following bliss, and it's impacting searchers of all ages and at all stages.

I first saw Women in Motion as a way to give something back to the community while networking with other professional women and promoting my business. I hadn't thought of myself as a mentor before, but the idea was intriguing.
High school students from across the GTA recently attended The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario's Annual Youth in Motion conference, a branch of Women in Motion.

Akela Peoples, executive director, was so positive and energized, her enthusiasm was contagious. I imagined myself coaching a young, impressionable woman whom I could wow with my wisdom and experience.

Being "role-modely" tickled my maternal instincts. Hobnobbing with women nourished my need for more personal and professional relationships . And the scheduled series of dynamic, interactive breakfasts and cocktail events provided a certain "je ne sais quoi."

Still, I was apprehensive. How could I possibly mentor, or even connect with, someone several decades my junior?

The answer came in a well-organized package of programmed events, and a schedule that meshed well with my own. At the mentor orientation-and-networking event, I learned that others were in the same boat, a sea of nervous novices. Peoples explained the ins and outs and assured us that our journey would be positive and professional. She was right.

WIM's programs are not only enriching and fun, they're manageable. Nothing is left to chance. Conferences run like clockwork. Schedules are respected.

Even so, I was surprisingly nervous about meeting my protege at the launch. Just 16, 5-ft.-11", beautiful, bright and talented, with her whole life ahead of her.

But with smiles, nametags and conversation-catalysts about possibilities, passions, values and futures, it didn't take long to learn about Sarah's interests, her dreams, her family and friends.

In response, I found myself sharing mine. So, while opening doors for my protege, she was opening them for me.
Akela Peoples, executive director, WIM.

"The best mentoring is based on modeling," says Nancy Gale of Franklin Covey Canada, "and Akela walks the talk."

The youngest women ever to have won the Women of Distinction award for Entrepreneurship, Peoples personifies commitment, risk-taking and a respect for traditional human values.

You can't participate in a WIM event without being touched in some way. Always professional, open and positive, Peoples wanders among the sea of eager, young (+) faces, inspiring, training, motivating, empowering.

And it lands on all of us.

"Mentoring at WIM is about adding value, networking, and having a chance to reflect on the choices you've made in your life," Akela summarizes.

"It's your path, your decisions. When do we ever actually reflect on where we are and where we're going?"

If you're interested in learning more about becoming a WIM mentor, please visit or call (416) 962-4WIM (4946).

Barbara Frank ( is a corporate trainer, public speaker and communications specialist and president of Business Buffet, the Help-Yourself series. Visit

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