Two years ago, HSBC made a three-year, $1 million investment in Girls Inc. in an Afterschool Math Plus program.

Now they’re launching a pilot program to mentor teen girls, particularly those from low-income communities. While many applied, only 10 teens were chosen to participate and each was paired with one of 10 volunteers — HSBC bankers who belong to BALANCE, the company’s employee resource group supporting a gender-balanced workforce.

The teens and mentors will meet at least three times a month, including two one-on-one sessions to discuss topics including college, internships, careers, “whatever’s on their minds,” said Cate Luzio, executive vice president and global head of international subsidiary banking at HSBC.

Then once a month they’ll get together for formalized curriculum and leadership lessons.

They’ll learn negotiating skills, an introduction to banking and finance and how to be a female leader, as well as “the importance of resiliency and grit in the face of adversity,” said Luzio.

Power and confidence

Mentors and mentees recently attended the American Bankers “Most Powerful Women in Banking” Gala, a red-carpet event in New York City. The teens received hair and makeup, as well as new clothes. The teens didn’t know that participating in the program would include a make-over and Michael Kors outfits.

“We wanted them not just to be here, but to be here with confidence,” said Luzio.

This was the first meet-and-greet between mentors and mentees, and we sat with four of the young women to discuss their hopes.

Nahima Ahmed

Fifteen-year-old Nahima Ahmed, a high school sophomore, is interested in studying software engineering and getting into the medical field.

She wore a black pantsuit and red shoes to the gala.

“I just got my makeup done and I feel amazing,” she said. “I love my outfit too.”

Ahmed, who enjoys meeting new people and networking, is eager to meet influential women through the program.

“I’d like to talk with them, network with them and ask them what they do and how did they get to the position where they are right now,” said Ahmed, whose mentor is Nikita Desai.

Tiffany Doris

“I feel really bold,” said high school senior Tiffany Doris, who was feeling confident and a lot taller than usual. She wore new black Michael Kors heels to the gala.

“I feel like I will have to start coming out of my comfort zone, meet people in that field and an ask people what tips and tricks they have, what kind of advice would they give somebody like me,” said Doris, who wants to become a tech entrepreneur.

The 17 year-old is looking forward to learning from her mentor, Stacy Gee.

“Over the year, I think I’ll learn from Stacy how business works, how to work in the financial district and how to become a [female] entrepreneur [and] business woman,” said Doris.

Kalila Calame

“In the future, I want to be a journalist,” said senior Kalila Calame, who glammed up for the gala and wore a black dress adorned with metal studs.  

“I am obsessed with the outfit,” she said. “I really love it.”

The 17-year-old is enthusiastic about the mentor program and her mentor, Erika Sufilka.

“I want to network and talk to a lot of people,” she said. “This is a good time since I’m applying to college.” 

Emelly Alvarado

When Emelly Alvarado, a high school sopohomore, shopped for her gala outfit, she hugged the Michael Kors sales associate. The 15-year-old was so excited to rock her black dress and red purse at the red-carpet event. 

Alvarado, who wants to pursue a career in medicine, is ready to learn from the program, and her mentor, Sara Cisco.

“I love getting to know people and I feel like [that] is how you make connections in the real world,” she said. “Put yourself out there and get to know people.”