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...

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.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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