Mentors: Your Most Important Relationship?

Women currently account for nearly 60 percent of college graduates. Since 2010, we’ve even made up the majority of the workforce (granted, by a very slight margin, and only if you count part-time workers.) But, according to The Chicago Network, we still only make up 15 percent of executive positions in Chicago’s top 50 public companies. Those numbers bear out on a national scale and in Fortune 500 companies.

While the reasons that women have yet to fully break into the highest ranks of the workplace are numerous, one strategy that can address that imbalance is mentorship. Mentoring relationships help bring more women into the pipeline to leadership and help women develop a skill set, reach their goals and provide feedback in order to advance in the workplace. The best mentoring relationships will also give women access to networks and resources that will make the critical difference in propelling them to secure executive positions. In fact, in one survey, 44 percent of CEOs list mentoring programs as one of the three most effective strategies to enhance women’s advancement into senior management. Women who participate in mentoring programs are more likely to be promoted and receive raises at a more frequent and consistent rate.

And while mentorship is important for women in the midst of their career pursuits, it can be even more impactful for young women. One study showed that there are about 15 million high-need young people in need of mentoring. Meanwhile, 60 percent of low-income students graduate from high school, and only one-third of low-income students enroll in college. But low-income high school students who believe a college education is necessary for their career dreams are about six times more likely to earn a college degree than their peers. Mentorship can expand a young woman’s universe by providing exposure to diverse careers and paths to success, in addition to teaching resiliency, confidence, self-efficacy and healthy relationships.

With January designated as National Mentoring Month, WGN Midday News invited me on to talk best practices for mentoring relationships. Click the video above to learn about how to find mentors, make the ask and create the most trusting and effective relationships.

Sound intrigued? Click over to Step Up Women’s Network (or contact me at to learn about our professional development programs that connect you with inspiring women from diverse industries, and our teen programs that help you inspire teen girls to achieve their college and career goals.


About Cassandra A. Gaddo

Cassandra A. Gaddo is managing director of Step Up Women's Network in Chicago. A passionate advocate for gender equality and the advancement of women and girls, she is also a board member of Rape Victim Advocates, and a Young Professionals Ambassador for The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She writes and speaks about local, national and international women's issues, including in her blog, "Twice As Well."