As we conclude Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating Mary Sorrentino, our Vice President of Client Relations, who has worked at the firm since 1973! She came out of retirement after the pandemic to serve twice a week in the office, and hers is the face our consultants love to see when they visit Chicago from around the country. Learn more about her in this Q&A.
1. How did you begin your career at GG+A?
I was working as an assistant to a superintendent for a school district out in the suburbs. One of the women who worked there was friends with one of the [firm’s founding members]. She knew they needed someone – that they were looking for an assistant. So, she brought me down here for an interview and I was hired immediately. I started working two weeks later as John Grenzebach’s executive assistant. That was back in 1973.
I did everything in the office, because it was a very small group. We probably only had about six people in the office. We had John Grenzebach [father of GG+A Chairman Martin Grenzebach], we had our CFO, we had a writer, and we had a couple of consultants who were here on site in Chicago.
We had very few women who were consultants, and look at how that has changed!
One of the things I have most enjoyed is working with Martin [Grenzebach], [GG+A CEO] John Glier, and the clients. Over the years I’ve developed relationships with the clients and have known some of them really well, and I knew their assistants. If I needed anything, I knew where to go.
Working at GG+A has been very rewarding for me because of the relationships I have developed over the years. I have always tried to help new staff and consultants get acquainted with the firm and our policies and procedures and assisted them in many different ways. And I have been lucky to retain friendships with many after they have moved on from the firm.
2. Do you think the culture for professional women has changed over the years? In what ways?
Although [in the early days of the firm] our writers were often women, the thing that I’ve noticed the most is the consultants. We had very few women who were consultants, and look at how that has changed! If you look at the firm now, I think we have about 50% females. That started changing, maybe a little earlier than the 2000s, when women started rising into leadership positions at the university level, too.
Between you and me, I think it’s still hard for [professional] women to be valued the same as men.
3. Who are some of the women who have encouraged you over the years? Who are some women you admire?
I was very fortunate in that a friend, Jo Kledzenski, helped take care of my kids, almost since they were born. And I was a single mother, so I had to work.
In our firm, one of the women I admire is Charlotte McGhee. And she’s in her nineties now and still does work for us. It’s her work ethic over the years, all the things that she’s done, and her memory that has inspired me in so many ways.
Another person I must mention who was wonderful to work with is Maggie Leroux. Maggie died of cancer probably about eight or nine years ago. She was with us for about 21 years, and she was absolutely fabulous. She did so many things for the firm, working with John Glier on many of his projects and with our other consulting professionals on their reports. We had a great friendship and could always laugh together. And that’s what you need – you need someone that you can work with that’s a good friend and that you can enjoy life with.
4. What advice do you have for future generations of professional women?
Learn as much about the firm you’re going to work for as you possibly can, and appreciate the people who work there and the help that they can give you. And don’t hesitate to reach out for help!
Learn more about Mary and her role at GG+A.