Mentoring Women Entrepreneurs

ATHENA’s global influence has brought passion and progress to Central Florida—and now the inaugural class of ATHENANextGen.

ATHENA International is quickly becoming a female-fueled powerhouse within the Central Florida community.

The global, nonprofit organization was founded more than 30 years ago by Martha Mayhood Mertz, author of Becoming ATHENA: Eight Principles of Enlightened Leadership, and encompasses eight core programs that support, develop and honor women leaders. The program inspires women to reach their full potential and strives to create balance in leadership worldwide.

You may be familiar with ATHENAPowerLink®, a community-based mentoring program designed to “link” a panel of business advisors to women entrepreneurs for a period of 12 months. Each panel is tailored to the company’s specific needs, to help them identify and accomplish goals pertaining to growth and profitability. Since the program’s inception nine years ago, 25 women business owners in Orlando have successfully completed ATHENAPowerLink®, and their businesses are flourishing. Moreover, they have added numerous jobs to the local economy.

Recognizing the need to celebrate mentoring across generations, the ATHENA Women’s Leadership Luncheon was first introduced in 2012. Last November, the second annual event brought together a group of more than 500 women. The event focuses on promoting a dialogue between established leaders and their emerging counterparts through a roundtable discussion built around ATHENA’s eight leadership principals.

Aside from initiating conversations among women of all generations and professional levels, the event also recognizes women who exemplify ATHENA’s future role models. Last year, ATHENA Orlando Women’s Leadership Inc. established a $100,000 endowed scholarship through the University of Central Florida Foundation Inc. to benefit outstanding female graduate students. The award’s first recipient, Stephanie Bolyard, was recognized at the luncheon for her outstanding accomplishments. Bolyard is completing a doctorate in environmental engineering at UCF.

A highlight of the event included the presentation of the 2013 Orlando ATHENA Leadership Award to Sandy Hostetter, president of CNLBank Central Florida. Presented annually in communities around the globe, the award honors and illuminates the leaders and leadership styles of individuals others would emulate. The award’s rich history, international scope and emphasis on mentorship make this honor unique and among the most prestigious of leadership awards. With three successful programs already in the mix, Orlando’s ATHENA movement shows no signs of slowing down in 2014.  This spring will mark the launch of a new program called ATHENANextGen. It’s designed as a collaborative forum where participants will enhance their professional development skills through a series of eight sessions about mentoring and leadership strategies, all tailored to the next generation of women leaders. Each month, the discussion topics will be facilitated by a prominent Central Florida woman, with the conversation revolving around one of ATHENA’s eight leadership principals:


1. Live Authentically

2. Learn Constantly

3. Advocate Fiercely

4. Act Courageously

5. Foster Collaboration

6. Build Relationships

7. Give Back

8. Celebrate


“ATHENANextGen will give participants the opportunity to take a deeper dive and learn from the established women leaders who have made significant contributions to their professions and the business community,” says Karen Keene, ATHENA International board member.

Emerging leaders who are ready to take the next step and embrace an open dialogue about the future of women’s leadership can apply for the inaugural class of ATHENANextGen. Sessions will be 8 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. one morning each month from April to December (no session in July). The cost for the entire series is $395, and seats were limited to 40 participants. Applications are available as of Feb. 17.