Same Blog, Different Job

5 things you didn’t know about Step Up Women’s Network

You may have noticed it’s been quiet on this blog lately. Very, very quiet. But there’s a reason for my absence: in the last few months, I’ve transitioned into a new role as managing director of Step Up Women’s Network in Chicago. (If you’re asking, “What’s Step Up?”, keep reading.)

Though I’m no longer on staff at Today’s Chicago Woman, I’ll still be writing about women in the workplace and the world on this blog. The direction may shift a bit, but it will still be driven by a steadfast belief in women’s equality in the workforce, the necessity of women having full autonomy over their lives and the choices they make, and in the importance of not only raising awareness of but also taking action on issues affecting women and girls here at home and around the world.

But back to the new gig: I wear many hats in my new role, but one of them is spreading the word about Step Up. So when Jen Boroff of Henson Consulting (which is owned by one of TCW’s 100 Women to Watch 2012, Kathleen Henson) asked me to write a post about the organization, I enthusiastically obliged. Below is my contribution to the post; read the full piece here.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Step Up

In Chicago, there’s no lack of events competing for our attention. From cocktail mixers to networking receptions, charity luncheons to restaurant openings, brand launch parties to dinner with friends, each week we try to balance commitments that help us grow professional networks, give back to the communityandspend real life face (not Facebook) time with friends.

What if there was one organization in Chicago that helped you combine networking, philanthropy and social time? Enter Step Up Women’s Network, a national non-profit membership organization that launched in Chicago in 2006. Our mission is connect you to the professional women you need and the teen girls who need you. We do that by creating powerful afterschool and weekend programs that enable teen girls from under-resourced communities become confident, college-bound and career ready, and empowering professional women through professional development and social networking opportunities. And then – here’s where the real magic happens – we bring those two groups together, allowing our members to serve as mentors to our teens, who are 9th-12thgraders in Chicago High Schools. Our members’ diverse personal and professional backgrounds open our teen girls’ eyes to the possibilities of college and career.

What else should you know about this membership of fabulous women? Here are 5 things to know about Step Up Women’s Network.

1. You can mentor as much as or as little as you like. Do you have one Saturday a year? Great! Can you give one Saturday a month for six months? Well, that’s just peachy, too. Our mentoring programs are designed specifically for women with busy professional and personal lives. We update our volunteer opportunities regularly on our online calendar, or contact Whitney at

2. Our teens have a 100% graduation rate and college acceptance rate. That’s right — in the city of Chicago, where high school graduation rates hover around 60%, 100% of our teens have graduated from high school and been accepted to colleges like Johnson & Wales University, DePaul University and Bradley University. We’re pretty proud of them, if you couldn’t tell.

3. Our guests are kind of a big deal. What do Advertising Age Publisher Allison Arden, ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore and Deloitte Vice Chairman Deb DeHaas have in common? Besides being incredibly successful women, they’ve all spoken to our members at Step Up events. Our professional development programming puts you within a handshakes-length of our city’s most inspiring women, where they share their insight and advice — with you. Next up: aPower Breakfast with Nextions President Arin Reeves on October 11.

4. We take the “work” out of “networking.” Refinery 29 recently called Step Up one of “Five Chicago Clubs to Keep You Fed, Fit and Fabulous,” noting, “We can’t think of a more positive group to hang out with than the fabulous ladies behind Step Up Women’s Network.” Toss any ideas of stuffy networking, where half-enthused participants trade business cards in what seems like a contest for who can collect the most. The women of Step Up attend our events to truly connectand collaborate with other women. We call it social networking for a reason.

5. You can put one teen through one year of Step Up programming. When you join Step Up as a Luminary Circle member, your $1000 donation supports one teen through our programming to make her confident, college-ready and career-bound. But if you’re not quite ready for that commitment, our membership levels start at $75, and you’ll still be able to attend our fantastic professional development programming and work with our amazing teen girls. Contact Kristen at to learn more about becoming a member of Step Up Women’s Network.


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."