Female Empowerment Through Mentoring in the WIB Scholarship

by Laura Winkler | October 10, 2023
HHL's Women in Business Scholarship aims to increase female empowerment and diversity. Learn from a participating mentor-mentee match how they get empowered by and benefit from its mentoring program - in both directions.

Part 1: Discover how HHL supports female students with the Women in Business Scholarship.

Female Empowerment Getting Real – About the Mentor-Mentee-Relationship in the WIB Scholarship Program

Within the Women in Business Scholarship of the Master in Management Program the candidates are provided with an additional benefit: a personal mentor from HHL’s alumni network including – but not limited to – inspiring female founders, C-Level executives, and leaders from various industries. This way, we aim to empower both women: the mentor and the mentee.

I always encourage women to try good things. It’s possible that you won’t gain what you desire after trying, but it’s certain that you gain nothing without trying.

Jiayu Zhan, Full-time Master in Management student at HHL

Dive into a Firsthand WIB Mentorship Experience – Interview with Carolin & Jiayu

Let’s have a look at the benefits of the mentor-mentee relationship with the example of our MSc student Jiayu Zhan as a mentee and our alumna Carolin Gerlich as her mentor. They both got interviewed by our alumna Louisa Heiduk as a representative of the Women@HHL initiative.

Louisa Heiduk Portrait
Louisa Heiduk - the Interviewer

Louisa is a doctoral student and research associate at HHL’s chair of Mergers and Acquisitions. In addition to her research activity, she is highly involved in the Women@HHL initiative. Shaping and promoting the women in business mentoring program is a passion topic for her and she is happy to observe the fruitful exchange between the mentees and mentors.

Carolin, how are you connected with HHL and the Women in Business Scholarship?

I was looking for ways to further contribute to HHL activities beyond my doctoral program. A conversation with Louisa about the Woman@HHL Initiative, and specifically the idea of starting a Mentoring Program, really sparked my interest. While I didn’t have much mentoring experience previously, I knew I wanted to play a role in supporting other women at HHL and exchanging experiences and learnings to help each other grow. That’s what drove my decision to become a mentor.

Carlon Gerlich Portrait
Carolin Gerlich - the Mentor

Carolin is currently working for Deutsche Bank AG as a Management Consultant in Frankfurt, Germany. Additionally, she is an external doctoral student at HHL. A conversation about the Woman@HHL initiative sparked her interest in supporting other women at HHL, exchanging experiences and learnings to help each other grow. That’s why she decided to become a mentor.

Jiayu, what led you to apply for the Women in Business Scholarship?

I am an ambitious feminist. I care much about my female peers. By that, I don’t mean that I am against my male peers for no reason. I respect every single individual with good intent and kindness. I mean that I want to contribute more to my community after seeing the unfairness and negligence of certain living conditions of the female community, including gender stereotypes in work environments and imbalanced workloads back at home. I care about it, and I work on it. Throughout the last few years, I’ve tried my best to empower females around me and will continue doing so.

What has been the biggest challenge in the application process for the scholarship?

The pitch deck would be the most challenging part. I like talking to people face to face, so I enjoy interviews pretty much. However, within 5 slides, I was required to show a clear storyline of context and actions regarding the empowerment of women in my life. I was truly a bit worried about this part during the application process.

Jiayu Zhan Portrait
Jiayu Zhan - the Mentee

Jiayu is originally from Guangzhou. She is studying in the full-time Master in Management program at HHL and interning at Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung in Halle. As an adventurous and innovative mind who aims for female empowerment and was a volunteer teacher for females in Southeast Asia, she got enrolled in the WIB scholarship program including an intense and very helpful mentorship with her mentor Carolin Gerlich.

Carolin, how do you guide and support your mentees in their journey?

After a general introduction meeting where I shared my experiences and we discussed some initial ideas to exchange, Jiayu decided on which points she wanted to focus on first. We then jointly created some goals and ways to measure the outcome she wants to achieve and we now meet on a regular basis to review progress, discuss where she‘s getting stuck, and brainstorm on ways to make progress.


Jiayu, what did you learn during the mentoring program and what was something that you did not expect to learn or experience?

I have learned a lot during the mentoring program which helps me during my studies, in my personal as well as in my professional life.

My key takeaways are:

  1. How to find a research gap through a literature review.
  2. How to communicate more properly with people in a higher hierarchy than myself.
  3. What a powerful, kind, capable, and thoughtful woman can look like.

Even though I did not expect that, Carolin helped me a lot to figure out most of my confusion about my work student job, internships, and research. I expected way less than this at the beginning of the mentorship program. She’s truly a knowledgeable, kind, and capable woman. I think I’ve found another female role model.

2 empowered women laughing

Carolin, what were your takeaways from the experience of being a mentor? Can you share some insights?

The mentoring experience with Jiayu has been and continues to be a growth journey for both of us. It’s definitely a two-way street. Our meetings expose both of us to new perspectives and ideas and we encourage each other to grow personally and professionally. Seeing Jiayu succeed and achieve her goals makes me very proud as well, knowing that I play some part in helping her develop.

Being a mentor is a rewarding experience. […] Mentoring also provides the opportunity to positively impact someone’s life or career. Guiding and supporting Jiayu in their journey is incredibly fulfilling, as I am able to witness her growth and accomplishments. We both can gain a new perspective through our exchanges since we come from different backgrounds. Jiayu’s unique experiences, perspectives and skills have also been a great learning opportunity for me.

Being a mentor necessitates reflecting on your own experiences, strengths, and weaknesses. This introspection can lead to self-improvement and personal growth as you strive to be a better mentor and role model.

Carolin Gerlich, Management Consultant at Deutsche Bank AG & HHL alumna

Jiayu, how would you summarize your experience with the WIB scholarship so far, and what earnings do you think will result from your experience?

My experience with my WIB mentor is amazing. I learned a lot from Carolin and she also gave me a number of suggestions regarding not only my career path but also my personal growth.

I would advise all the females who strive for success to be bold and try different things. It’s only possible to gain once we try. Rich life experience will be helpful at some point in your life.

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