Gisela Ghani, left, has mentored Maria Umar for the past two weeks here in D.C. They will continue the relationship when Umar returns to her business in Pakistan.
Ten entrepreneurial women from Pakistan have spent the last few weeks working on their business education and establishing mentorships in the Washington metro area.
Maria Umar runs the Women's Digital League in Pakistan, a virtual assistance company that she built from the ground up two years ago. Unfortunately, she faces unique difficulties in Pakistan that women in the U.S. wouldn't dream of having to overcome.
"It's been a challenge to be taken seriously," she says. "It was like, 'It's just a hobby, it's just a phase and she'll get over it,'" Umar says.
But her company is much more than a hobby to Umar. Thanks to a program backed by the State Department and Goldman Sachs, Umar spent the last two weeks at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona and then came to D.C. to meet her mentor.
"It's something that all of have been dreaming of, to get trained in business, find mentors we could work with who could train us and literally take us along the way," she says.
Umar's mentor, Gisela Ghani, is the CEO of a consulting firm in Falls Church. She came to the U.S. from India in the '90's, and remembers the struggle of getting started in business.
"It's the mentors in my life who have got me to where I am right now and so I would really like to pay it forward and see if I could help anyone else," says Ghani.
Once Umar returns to Pakistan, Ghani will still check in with her at least once a month to see how her business is developing.