No executive rises to the top on his or her own.

That was a consistent theme at American Banker’s 17th annual gala late Thursday recognizing the most powerful women in banking and finance.

Several speakers gave credit to the mentors who had helped them rise in executive ranks. They emphasized that goals like gender parity cannot be achieved unless they can embrace that role for others, assisting the next generation of women leaders while also enlisting additional allies.

“We’re all here tonight because at some point a man or a woman played a critical role in giving advice or giving us an opportunity or coaching us in a time of need or just encouraging us,” said Barbara Desoer, the former CEO of Citibank, who accepted an award for lifetime achievement. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to continue that.”

To be sure, serving as a mentor does not mean shading the truth. Cathy Bessant, who was the most powerful women in banking for the third consecutive year, gave credit to Desoer for being willing to offer direct guidance that had a significant impact on her career.