WINGS for Growth
General Business

Giving Women in Business WINGS for Growth

WINGS for Growth is busy connecting working women with C-suite-level mentors in order to help the former group grow professionally, change the culture of their individual workplaces and make a difference in their communities.

The three-year-old, 501(c)(3) organization based in Bridgewater does this through its Signature Program, a 10-month cohort of, on average, 16 women mentees who have each been paired with individual mentors.

According to WINGS for Growth founder Varsha Waishampayan, the program is “very formal, structured and outcome-based, with a curriculum that entails group setting leadership workshops, mentoring, coaching and other processes.”

Mentors (men or women) are required to meet with program participants once a week for the first 6-8 weeks and at least once a month afterwards. There are also Champions who work closely with assigned mentors, ensuring that the mentee’s development plan is well-defined, and that progress is being closely monitored and documented.

Currently, WINGS has 70 corporate mentor volunteers, many of whom came on board during the organization’s 101 Women on Deck campaign, which kicked off this past March.

The campaign served two purposes: One, to grow a pool of mentors for the Signature Program; and, two, to help a larger number of women who were unable to take part in the Signature Program because of small class size requirements.

As Waishampayan explains, “Every time we enroll people into the Signature Program, we get flooded with applications coming in from around the country. So, it was very hard for us to say ‘no’ to women who are qualified and committed. We wanted to have some type of program that could address their needs and help them with one simple goal. If we could do this 101 times, the impact would be huge.”

Wings for Growth

Varsha Waishampayan (left) with NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka.

New Jersey Business & Industry President Michele Siekerka is among the mentors who signed up for the 101 Women on Deck campaign. She was paired with Heba Mahmoud, senior manager of diversity at the Consumer Technology Association in Virginia and is mentoring her on executive presence and confidence building.

“The reason I felt compelled to volunteer is because of the leadership capabilities I saw in Varsha and her initiatives around leadership and diversity,” Siekerka says. “She is on to something great in terms of how she is approaching mentoring.”

Waishampayan explains that many of the women mentees in the current cohort are business managers with 10 -20 years of experience.  “That has pushed the envelope for us to find more mentors who are C-suite-level executives. Additionally, we have also completely revamped our curriculum to be more suitable for women already in managerial roles,” she says.

“All of this has created a lot of awareness at the corporate level with many people reaching out to us and wanting to be part of our board, our recently established advisory council and/or become mentors,” Waishampayan says.

To date, WINGS has executed three cohorts over the last three years and the latest one, which began in March, is expected to graduate this month.

There is currently a waiting list of mentees, and Waishampayan explains that each Signature Program applicant must undergo an interview process and make a presentation before being admitted into the program.

Waishampayan says the WINGS for Growth and the Signature program will be expanding to the West Coast and, perhaps, Asia in 2020.

“In the last year, things gave grown multifold… that’s good!” she comments.

Waishampayan founded WINGS for Growth after a long career on Wall Street and as a chemistry teacher in her native India. Her father and mother were both professors of economics. Her father was also a university dean.

He was also Waishampayan’s role model and mentor.  “My father transformed his students’ lives by teaching. I also saw how committed, compassionate and respected he was.”

She continues, “He always saw the teacher in me and he wasn’t happy that I left teaching and came to the US. On a visit back to India, he told me one day, ‘Everybody can help someone. … Who are you helping? You should teach people. You should share your experiences with them.’

“I told him I wasn’t old enough to retire and teach. My father laughed and said, ‘There is never a bad time to do something good. It is a matter of priorities,’” she recalls.

“Because his health was deteriorating, I came back determined that I was going to make him proud,” she says.

One can say that her father, in some way, gave Waishampayan her “wings for growth.”

For more information on WINGS for Growth and the Signature Program, visit

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