By Karen Keene

As the economy continues to improve, the tide has changed on the job market. Last year, CNN Money reported the U.S. economy regained nearly nine million jobs lost during the financial crisis. In addition, entrepreneurs are launching new businesses in droves. They’re finding it easier to obtain small business loans to fulfill their dreams and ultimately, have greater control over their financial destiny.

So how can companies remain competitive in attracting and retaining top talent? There are a number of factors for employers to consider such as flex hours, virtual teams, creative compensation packages, and company-paid health and wellness programs. Additionally, there is a consistent theme among Millennials that they want to be engaged in mentorship programs promoting collaboration and leadership development. In 2020, Millennials will represent approximately 40 percent of the workforce. We’ll see increasing trends among organizations to enhance mentoring programs as a powerful tool for accelerating performance.

Mentoring comes at various levels and at different stages in a person’s career. Gone are the days where executives designed mentorships solely as a “top-down” strategy. The most effective organizations are those who cultivate a mix of strategies including reverse mentoring and virtual mentoring. It’s a great opportunity to encourage open dialogue among multi-generations to learn from one another. Older workers benefit by learning new technologies and social media skills from their younger mentors, and global companies are more cohesive working both up and down the chain of relationships and leadership channels.

The most encouraging news is that women’s mentoring programs are on the rise in the U.S. and in our community. This month, Orlando celebrated the grand opening of the Florida Institute of Technology Women’s Business Center, now called weVENTURE – a regional hub for empowering women in S.T.E.M. In addition, enrollment is now open for ATHENA NextGen – designed as a collaborative forum for up and coming professional women to enhance their leadership skills.

ATHENA NextGen hosts eight monthly sessions facilitated by prominent women leaders who represent a spectrum of top companies in Orlando. Imagine receiving pearls of wisdom from Sandy Hostetter, Diana Bolivar, Kimberly Maki and Annetta Wilson, all in an interactive “Master’s Class” setting at the UCF Executive Development Center in downtown Orlando. These dynamic women ignite thought-provoking conversations that take us on a deeper dive into ATHENA’s Leadership Model.

ATHENA also works strategically with entrepreneurs. Florida has seen a 74 percent increase in the number of women-owned, small businesses in the past 15 years, ranking Florida as the sixth fastest-growing state for women entrepreneurs.

ATHENAPowerLink® – now in its 10th year in Central Florida – guides women business owners in defining and achieving tangible goals by providing them with access to a panel of business advisors. Panelists are selected to serve as mentors and advisors for a 12-month period at no charge to the woman business owner and, ultimately, strive to help the woman business owner achieve growth and profitability. Essentially, the panel performs as the entrepreneur’s “board of directors,” offering professional expertise in areas such as legal, accounting, lending, human resources, marketing, commercial real estate and strategic planning.

Please visit our Website at to learn about how to apply. We’re accepting applications for ATHENA NextGen until Friday, April 3.


Karen Keene is the Director of Marketing & Business Development at Dean Mead, a corporate law firm headquartered in Orlando with five offices throughout Florida. She is President of ATHENA Orlando Leadership, Inc. and a member of the ATHENA International Board of Directors.