10 Seattle Women Business Leaders Discuss the Power of Mentors

Executives from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Puget Sound Public Radio, Washington Global Health Alliance, The Riveter and other organizations discuss the importance of finding and keeping mentors throughout their careers.

This article appears as part of the "Women at Work" cover story in the May 2018 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

Andrea Voytko
Deputy Director, Alumni Program Manager at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
“I have been so fortunate to have Cheryl Scott, now retired CEO of Group Health Cooperative, as my sponsor and mentor for the last 30 years. When Cheryl retired from Group Health, she helped position me to become the chief of strategic planning for her successor. Later, when she emerged from retirement to work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, I was recruited to be chief of staff for Patty Stonesifer, the foundation’s first CEO. From Cheryl, I learned how to lead from the heart.”

Caryn G. Mathes, President at Puget Sound Public Radio and General Manager at KUOW
“I struggled mightily in my first CEO job and made many mistakes. I was on my own for finding knowledgeable people to approach for mentoring. This self-built network of men and women with knowledge, access and influence was critical to my survival and eventual success.”

Dena Morris, President and CEO at the Washington Global Health Alliance
“In the U.S. Senate, where I worked for 13 years, the chief of staff made a space for me at the table and I’m forever grateful. He gave me authority to make decisions. He looked to me for my opinion in front of others. That created respect for me among colleagues and peers that I couldn’t have cultivated on my own.”

Betti Fujikado, Cofounder and CEO at Copacino + Fujikado
“I’ve never had a formal mentor, but there have been many people I’ve learned from who helped me, supported me and, yes, criticized me. It may have been the criticisms that taught me the most. I’ve always been eager for advice, watchful for ‘best practices’ andexcited to learn.”

Amy Nelson, Founder and CEO at The Riveter
“I had my first mentor right out of college at The Carter Center, Jimmy Carter’s NGO. A woman named Laura took me under her wing and taught me the benefit of building a network, how to maintain it and how to ask for what I need. Since then, I have had more mentors, and many great ones have been men. You can succeed in the workplace without a mentor, but it’s hugely helpful to have one.”

Maud Daudon, Former CEO at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
“I have had so many mentors … great people to look up to and learn from, and that’s been a huge difference maker for me. Most often, my mentors have evolved from close working relationships. I’d encourage women to be bold about this. If you see someone you admire and want to learn from, tell them … meet with them … and ask for their guidance. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they will be happy to oblige.”

Kim Vu, Enterprise Business and Community Engagement Market Executive at Bank of America
“One of my mentors, Mark Meyer, leads the Filene Research Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. For a decade, he’s offered a space where I can ask questions, try out ideas and gain insight into innovation within financial institutions."

“Mentors are great, but women also need sponsors — internal resources with the authority to open doors. Gail Moore, my first manager at BofA, has been a huge advocate. She nominated me for the Women’s Next Level Leadership Program, an internal development experience that focuses on the unique challenges multicultural women face. It provided me with strategies and tactics to advance my career. Even now, Gail helps me do my job better.”

Willa Marth, VP of Equity & Global Programs at Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands
“I have learned from formal mentor relationships, my supervisor, from amazing youth, colleagues and writers. I support mentorship programs and mentorship more broadly. At the same time, mentorship sometimes is about someone taking our hand and pulling us up or making a path for us. I think we need to focus on the systems and cultural pieces that make ‘being pulled up’ necessary and change them. This is much harder, but necessary for personal and societal growth.”

Breanne Sheetz Martell, Shareholder at Littler Mendelson P.C.
“I have been part of the Career Advocacy Program (CAP) at Littler since the pilot program began in 2012. CAP pairs diverse, high-performing associates with the most successful partners to serve as their mentors. CAP has helped me become a better lawyer, a better advocate for myself and others, and has led to my promotion to partner this year. I am now a mentor in the firm’s Investment for Success program, where I contribute to our firm’s future by supporting recruitment and retention of diverse associates.”

Jody Hall, Founder of Cupcake Royale and The Goodship Company
“A big part of my DNA is asking for help. I was part of that early family at Starbucks; many went on to do great things. I asked Starbucks’ leasing people how to design a store for efficiency and beauty. I modeled financials after Starbucks’ [system]. I have a ton of people to go to with questions. And I pay it forward. If people are starting a business — especially women — I try to make myself available and share what has worked for me. They can take what they want from that.”

This story is part of a multi-part cover story, "Women at Work." Click here for a free subscription.

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