Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today celebrated Women’s History Month with the launch of Mentor it Forward, a “speed mentoring” program created by the City’s Commission on Women’s Issues and Barnard College to provide students from colleges across the five boroughs, access to executive level professional women who otherwise would not have time to participate in traditional mentorship programs requiring month or year-long commitments. The Mayor kicked off the first Mentor it Forward event at Barnard College’s newly opened Diana Center, where he was joined by Barnard College President Debora Spar, the Commission on Women’s Issues Chair Anne Sutherland Fuchs and Executive Director Briana Collins, and NYC Service Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford and CBS 2 News Anchor and Reporter Cindy Hsu.
“A city is only as strong as the health and success of its women,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Climbing the ladder of success can be difficult without the guidance of someone who has already travelled that path. Mentor it Forward is creating a pipeline that allows the future generation of women professionals to hear from successful women who have broken the glass ceiling but do not always have the time to participate in a traditional mentoring program. This program combines efficiency and service to put more young women on the path to success.”
“The power of this program is in its ripple effect,” said Commission on Women’s Issues Chair Anne Sutherland Fuchs. “Just one woman who gives one hour of her time through Mentor it Forward will be able to share her career experience with at least four or five college students. Then each young woman can turn around and mentor four or five high school students, which is a total of 30 young women present which translates – if you do the math – to over 1,500 NYC youth who could benefit from this experience.”
“Barnard and the Commission on Women’s Issues have put together an innovative program that brings mentoring up to date with today’s fast-paced, information-saturated, social-networked world,” said Debora L. Spar, President of Barnard College. “The advice and guidance I’ve received over the years from my own mentors have been invaluable, and I have no doubt that these students and their mentors will be inspired by this joint experience.”
Immediately following the Mayor’s celebration of Women’s History Month, mentors from various industries – such as finance, business, health, government, science, technology, communications, marketing, media, and the nonprofit sector – met with students for the kick-off of Mentor it Forward. Participating students were enrolled in one of the 18 colleges registered with the NYC Service College Challenge, a citywide initiative that seeks to engage New York City’s collegiate body in service while highlighting and promoting innovation in service among the city’s colleges and universities. The College Challenge will significantly expand organized and self-directed student volunteerism, especially in the high need areas identified through NYC Service. Students register to participate in the program through the Commission on Women’s Issues website www.nyc.gov and identify the industries in which they are most interested in pursuing. They are then matched with groups of professional women whose experience reflect their career interests. Students meet with approximately 5 mentors for 8 minutes each during which time they are able to ask specific questions focusing on quick-hit information. Mentors, in turn, share their career experience and advice over the course of one hour.
“At NYC Service, we know that our City’s greatest resource is its people,” said New York City Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford. “Mentor It Forward is a great example of how we can tap into the power of the people of New York City – and the women in particular – to improve the lives of others.”
“Volunteering just one hour of time and experience can have a huge impact on the next generation,” said Marianne J. Harkin, a Director at NYU Langone Medical Center and Mentor. “Between work, family, and other commitments, it’s not always easy to dedicate a large block of time to provide career advice to younger women on a one-to-one basis. Mentor it Forward provided the perfect opportunity to be able to give back without having to add yet another commitment to my already packed schedule. Today, I met with 5 students, shared advice on managing multiple projects at a time, talked about the start of my career, answered their questions about getting their foot in the door, and was back to my office to start off my day by 10:30 a.m.”
“The main question I have for women executives is how were they able to climb to the top of the ladder,” says Jaime Young, a senior at Barnard College and mentee. “It is not surprising to hear the kinds of hurdles women face in the workplace but it’s not easy to know how real women have succeeded in spite of those challenges. Mentor it Forward provided me an opportunity to hear real stories from real, powerful women who have seen it, been there, done that, and succeeded.”
During the year-long program, Mentor it Forward mentors will change from event to event while students will be able to participate in multiple events throughout the year. While mentors are always welcome to participate in as many events as they can, the goal of this program is to open the doors for the younger generation to learn from some of the most powerful women in New York City by creating a mechanism through which these professional women can volunteer their time on a short-term basis. Mentees will also be able to volunteer their time by “mentoring it forward” at upcoming events throughout the year by serving as mentors to high school students interested in learning from them about their college experience.
Women who would like to volunteer as mentors or students interested in registering to participate in future Mentor it Forward events should visit www.nyc.gov or call 311 for more information.
For more information and to register, go to The New York City Commission on Women's Issues website.