When I ask women to name someone who has been a meaningful mentor in their lives, the most common response sounds something like this: “There are so many. I don’t know where to start.” But when you pin them down, they usually come up with someone, whether a boss, a teacher, parent, grandparent or partner. Here’s what these Forty Women Over 40 honorees had to say:

A Grandmother Ahead Of Her Time

Suzanne McKechnie Klahr, an attorney and Founder & CEO of BUILD, which teaches disadvantaged youth entrepreneurial skills, names her grandmother, Ruth, who lived to be 97. “Ruth was a warrior. She went to Cornell at 16… when women (especially Jewish women) rarely went to college. She graduated and travelled the country as a playwright. She married late, had children later and went back to school in her 70s to get an advanced degree and founded a non-profit.”

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Courtesy Suzanne McKechnie Klahr

 This Father Knew Best

The maternal mentor—a mother or grandmother, sometimes an aunt, who has modeled ambitious life success is a powerful and recurring archetype. Women also acknowledge their fathers and/or grandfathers. Says Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, “My father was, by far, the most valuable mentor in my life. He was an incredibly smart, innovative, and principled leader…he was my greatest leadership teacher. After his retirement, he continued to mentor me for 25 years – through every stage of my career – until his death in 2009.”

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Courtesy Cheryl Bachelder

The Truthteller Husband

A husband is the top pick for some women, like Naama Bloom, Founder and CEO of HelloFlo. “My husband has provided more guidance and support than I could have ever dreamed. Since he’s an entrepreneur himself, he can empathize with the struggles and provide great counsel. As well, he’s an unbelievable strategist so I know I can always use him as a sounding board when I’m feeling stuck. Lastly, I tend to denigrate my accomplishments and he never lets me get away with that.”

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Courtesy Naama Bloom

Then There are Teachers

Educators get a shout-out, as by Ruth Ann Harnisch, President, Harnisch Foundation, who acknowledges “Buffalo NY Public School 72 Assistant Principal Dorothy Wolf who included me in the group of children who received the accent elimination coaching and declamation lessons that equipped me for my career in broadcasting.”

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Courtesy Ruth Ann Harnisch


This post originally published at Forbes