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The problem with a lack of female mentors in business — and one inspiring way to fix it.

A brighter business future for the daughters of the world is in progress...

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Facebook #SheMeansBusiness

Starting a business requires more than just a will to succeed and a great idea.

Ya gotta be ready for the shark tank ... of life. GIF from "Shark Tank."


It takes support, mentors, help, connections, more support, more mentors, more help, more connections, lots of money ... rinse, repeat.

Just like you wouldn't climb Mount Everest without a Sherpa and a backpack, you wouldn't climb the mountain of entrepreneurship without guides and investments.

GIF from "The Simpsons."

Unfortunately, there's one other thing that seems to really help when seeking guides and starting a business: Being a dude.

For example, digital startups founded by men are 86% more likely to be funded by venture capitalists and 59% more likely to be funded by angel investors, compared with female-founded startups in the U.K.

The process of finding guides, making the relationships that pave the way for funding, success, and advice when you need it most is not really working the way it could for ladies.

According to a report by the Kauffman Foundation, of nearly 350 female CEOs, presidents, CTOs,and leading technologists of tech startups in the U.S., almost half reported that "a lack of available mentors or advisors" was one of the top challenges they faced with their ventures.

Would Luke have been successful without Yoda? Probably not. Ya gotta have a Yoda! GIF from "Star Wars."

So, how do you set a goal to create mentors for women? And how do you achieve it?

Gina Romero, founder of The Athena Network Singapore, knows how.

Images from The Athena Network, used with permission.

It's all about knowing a few key people and then strategically bringing them together. In an email to Upworthy, Romero puts it frankly: "Athena gives our members access to the knowledge and skills that small businesses and startups often don’t have — and more importantly collaboration and support."

On top of that, Facebook allows women, particularly in remote areas, an opportunity to connect. As Romero mentioned when we spoke to her, "Facebook is one of the most powerful platforms for community building and, of course, connecting people. Especially when you want to reach people from all walks of life and in remote places. I’m in the Philippines right now, staying in a rural town where people still pump water and cook on wood fires — yet almost everyone is on Facebook. That’s pretty incredible."

With in-person mentorship plus Facebook, the benefits of explicitly forming female mentorship relationships just take off!

Organizations that are intentional about bringing people (and especially women) together create opportunities for training, development, media training, and so much more.

Listening to Elyse Anne, a personal finance consultant and one member of The Athena Network Singapore, describe its benefits, it's clear this stuff is important. "When I joined Athena my goal was to get more media coverage. ... I closed about $10k in sales in the first year thanks to media coverage. I was able to raise my profile and increase my rates to charge what I'm worth."

Organizations like The Athena Network are vital. They give female entrepreneurs the opportunity to create their own networks, share learnings, and “collaborate for mutual success.”

Romero's trying to change things in Asia, but the lack of mentors is international. Of 318 women from 19 countries and 30 businesses, a whopping 63% had never had a mentor, all the while 67% of that same group listed mentorship as one of their highest priorities.

Something's gotta give.

GIF from "Bridget Jones's Diary."

What's really worth noting is that 65% of women who have been mentored go on to become mentors themselves, according to a Catalyst survey.

Romero is 100% an example of that. As she told Upworthy, "My calling is to connect people. Connecting people in a meaningful way can be very powerful."

Being aware that this problem exists is the first step. Creating more opportunities for female entrepreneurs and more opportunities for mentorship is the next.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

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