Cultivating New Leaders / Less or more?

For women, success in business is measured in nuanced ways, perhaps reflecting why their numbers at the top remain low


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The collective angst about women reaching the top tiers of business often neglects a fundamental question: What do women want?

Take Amy Enrico, the owner of Tazza D'Oro, a wildly popular coffee shop in Highland Park. She has run the business for 13 years and added a second location at Carnegie Mellon University three years ago.

So why doesn't she have a chain of stores like other Pittsburgh-based coffee shops, such as Coffee Tree Roasters and Crazy Mocha, have?

"I just don't think more is better. I think better is more," she said.

By keeping her business small, she said, she can keep an eye on quality and customer service, which she appreciates even without the scale to bring her sales into the millions every year.

"Women are more risk averse," she said.

PG graphic: U. S. women in business
(Click image for larger version)

In Fortune 500 companies last year, just 8.1 percent of the top-earning executive officers -- those people whose salaries are listed in corporate proxy statements -- were women, according to New York City-based Catalyst. That was up from 7.5 percent in 2011.

And more broadly, just 14.3 percent of corporate executive officers were women. Catalyst reported that 16.6 percent of the members of boards of directors Fortune 500 companies were women.

Attention on women in business has been stoked this year by two women who have reached the top.

• Marissa Mayer left Google to take over as CEO of Yahoo in July, gave birth shortly thereafter, had a nursery built next to her office at her own expense -- and then ordered an end to telecommuting at the company.

• Her former colleague at Google, Sheryl Sandberg, who jumped ship to become COO at Facebook, was all over the airwaves in March, promoting her book, "Lean In." Her message is, in part, that women hold themselves back by not going for promotions the way that men do and by pulling back from career advancement well before they need to in the anticipation of having a family.

Ms. Mayer and Ms. Sandberg have successfully reignited the conversation about women in the workforce, said M.J. Tocci, the co-founder and director of the Heinz Negotiation Academy for Women at Carnegie Mellon University.

The mistake they made, Ms. Tocci said, was not to put their own houses in order first.

For instance, Ms. Mayer may believe that people working together create a collaborative synergy that they can't re-create at home. And, as a CEO she is within her rights to order workers to report to the office. But if she wanted to avoid the backlash, particularly after installing her own nursery at the office, she also should have instituted on-site child care for her employees' children, Ms. Tocci said.

As for Ms. Sandberg, it wasn't until March, the same month that her book came out, that Facebook brought the first woman into its board of directors.

PG graphic: Women on the boards of the publicly traded companies in the PG Top 50
(Click image for larger version)

"It matters to have women executives and it matters to have women on the board," Ms. Tocci said, noting that the research shows companies that have women in leadership roles, including on the boards of directors, have higher rates of return on investment. "I think [Ms. Sandberg] has helped us here. She's created a national conversation and she's not afraid to call herself a feminist."

Ms. Mayer, on the other hand, has created a hot mess for herself.

"The problem with Marissa Mayer is she's just acting like every other CEO," Ms. Tocci said.

Google, where both Ms. Mayer and Ms. Sandberg cut their teeth in the tech world, is a leader in bringing in workers and keeping them there by catering to their needs. The company offers free food, gymnasiums, game rooms, reading rooms and dry cleaning pickup.

What no one mentions, though, is child care.

Ms. Tocci said that women hold female CEOs to a higher standard, and Ms. Mayer could have been a heroine if she had just offered on-site child care.

Here at home, Dottie Coll of Whitehall, wasn't planning to run a company.

Instead, when she and her husband purchased a franchise of Two Men and A Truck, he was going to be the president and she was going to help out. She did that for quite a while, including packing boxes.

But over the past eight years, that changed. She found she was out front more, going to meetings and functions, representing the company in public. Her husband, she said, preferred to be in the back, handling the fleet and the books.

Other women business owners have been a great source of support, she said, even hiring her company and helping to promote her business. Now, instead of one location in Allegheny County, she owns two -- one in Bethel Park and the other in Haysville, near Sewickley.

Ms. Enrico is hoping that continued success in her neighborhood coffee shop lies in paninis and pastries. She has hired two more people to work in her Highland Park location to make panini sandwiches and bake fresh pastries. She already has a staff of baristas, a manager and a book keeper.

Ms. Enrico admits she is fairly risk averse, so adding food to her coffee shop is a stretch, but she said she is willing to take a chance to make her business better.

intheleadstories

-- Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699 First Published May 3, 2013 4:00 AM


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