Often, men help female executives get to the top

Mentors can be game-changers

Marianne Brown, CEO of Omgeo, a securities trading solutions firm, remembers when John Hogan, now president of Broadridge, coached her for her first presentation at a board meeting a decade ago.

"Over a grueling series of sessions, John put me through my paces, and the prep paid off. I walked into that meeting confident, and I walked out very proud. That experience was a game-changer for me," Brown says.

"If a woman wants advice from someone who has been there, done that, then it pretty much has to be a man," says Deborah Ellinger, president of Restoration Hardware, a home furniture company with 100 stores in North America.

Ellinger's key mentor is Marshall Carter, a 69-year-old former Marine and Vietnam War veteran and recipient of the Navy Cross, the highest medal awarded by the Navy and Marine Corps. He's been CEO of State Street and is now chairman of the New York Stock Exchange Group and deputy chairman of parent company NYSE Euronext. By the time he was a rising executive at Chase Manhattan Bank in the early 1980s, nine of the 12 vice presidents reporting to him were women.

Carter has two children including a daughter, now 43, but he says he was more influenced by his wife, who persuaded him to introduce flexible schedules and lactation stations at State Street in the 1990s.

Carter believes his attitude was also shaped by his return from two combat tours in Vietnam as an officer. He had a master's degree in operations research and systems analysis but was rejected by 85 companies because, he says, of the public's distaste for veterans at the time.

"He understands what it means to be an outsider," Ellinger says.

TELL US: Identify the one mentor who most influenced your success. Did your mentor's gender make a difference to you?

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