women leaders

As a growing number of female executives rise to the top,

just how will they change the culture of the workplace?


NEWSWEEK October 24, 2005


Everywhere you look, there are women surgeons, police officials,hard- charging executives and even amazingly resourceful undercover operatives. So why aren’t women across the country cheering? Well, perhaps because those role model —important as they are— are all fictional. They’re stars of popular TV shows like “Commander in Chief,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Alias.” When will the real world catch up?

Without question, there has been a huge transformation in the past few decades. Women’s earning power continues to rise along with their educational accomplishments. They are now more than half of all college students and about half of all medical and law students.. It is no longer a big deal to see a woman at the helm of the nation’s most prestigious universities, even at a technological powerhouse like MIT.

Women are an important presence in a number of industries, like film. “The women who wanted those jobs had no reason to believe they couldn’t have them,” says Sony Pictures executive Amy Pascal of her peers. NW didn’t look sideways or backwards’ And even in the august chambers of the Supreme Court, it is a measure of how far we have come since Sandra Day O’Connor’s ground breaking nomination that in the continuing debate over Harriet Miers, no one has even suggested she shouldn’t be confirmed because of her gender.

But there are other, more troubling developments as well. Earlier this year the president of Harvard got in trouble for suggesting that women didn’t have the right stuff for science (he has since apologized). Recent stories about women at elite colleges who want to ditch it all to stay home with their kids have prompted a furious debate among professional women. There is a fear that all those glass ceilings have been broken for naught and younger women who grew up with working mothers struggling to have it all have decided that the struggle just isn’t worth it. Whether younger women stick with that choice is, of course, still unclear. Their future undoubtedly holds many surprises, at work and at home, just as it did for the groundbreaking generation that preceded them. “There is no real balance of work and family in America,” says Marie Wilson of the White House Project, which supports female political candidates. “You integrate work and family and do the best you can.”

It has been about 30 years since women first started entering the workplace in large numbers . There is now a critical mass of women in leadership positions. It’s a good time to see how they’ve changed the work-place as they’ve climbed the ladder. Do women lead differently than men? The conventional wisdom is that they are more intuitive, more collaborative. If so, have they changed management culture when they make it to the top? What lessons would they pass on to the women who aspire to follow their path? In this report we talk to dozens of women who have led the way in one of the most significant social revolutions of the past century.

                                                                                  With VANESSA JUAREZ


Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy,

U. S. Department of State

ONE OF THE THINGS I SAY WHEN WOMEN ASK ME FOR ADVICE  is: make the ground rules very clear. It’s hard to accept a job that requires you to be at the office 15 hours a day if you intend to really only be there 10. It’s one of the things we discussed when I came to work at the White House. I picked up the phone and called the president-elect and said, “You know, I’m always going to work very hard and long hours, but I also need to spend time at my home.” A job is important and, for much of my life, was necessary to earn a living. But my job is not my whole life. My most important responsibility is to my family and to the child I chose to have. My job is going to have to allow me to fulfill that responsibility, or I need to look at a different job. But there are two sides to this. You have to be willing to ask and you also have to have the kind of employer who’s willing to consider and be flexible. My boss, the governor, and then, the president, believed in that, too. Ever since I first worked for him, he has always said if you’re a mom or dad, that’s your No. 1 obligation in life. I’ve been very blessed to have employers who were willing, at different points of my career, to give me a lot of flexibility and a lot of opportunities, like bringing my son along on the presidential campaign . As you can imagine, when you’re running for president and you have so much at stake and one of your key people comes and says, “By the way, can I bring my child along?” it’s got to give you some pause. But to his credit, Governor Bush immediately said that’s a fabulous idea. It was really one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire career to have my son travel with me.

It would, however, have been easy for me as a senior woman to do what was right for my own family and not to say much about anybody else’s. But I felt an obligation to speak up and let others know that it was OK for them to make their family a priority, too. I used to try and take a “midweek moment,” where I would try to leave the office a little earlier one afternoon a week. When a reporter heard about it and ended up doing a story, I thought it would send a signal to women who were more junior that they could make the same choices.

When I came to Washington, I thought of myself only as a member of the president’s staff. But I think my decision to move home to Texas because my son was unhappy in Washington caused people to view mc as a leader, particularly on the issue of work-family balance. I remember a mother stopping me in Austin and introducing me to her daughter and saying, “I want my daughter to grow up and be like you.” It made me feel I had an obligation to try to live up to that.

After I left the White House, I wasn’t planning on coming hack to Washington . I promised my family that I would spend the rest of my son s senior year at home in Texas and make home-cooked meals . I’m not sure I did great on the home-cooked meals—but I tried. I did more than usual.

I started to think about what I would do once my son went to college. Then the president and the secretary of State said they wanted me to work on public diplomacy. This was something I started working on while I was still at the White House.


House. After September 11, I realized that we were not doing a very effective job as a government in communicating with the world. I said I couldn’t start until later in the year, after my son left. But I compromised on that . When I was in Washington for the Inaugural, I had breakfast with my son and asked him what he thought about it. He said, “I think you ought to do it. You really care about it and it’s really important to my generation.” That just really hit me. ft is important to his generation.


Brigadier General

MY PARENTS WERE THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN MY LIFE. They instilled a strong spiritual back-ground in all five of us. Franklin was a small town and we grew up knowing all of our cousins. I had a talent for basketball. I learned to play through my male cousins, the only girl with all these guys out there. I was also the first African-American elected homecoming queen at my high school in 1972 right after desegregation. One of my friends got the idea on the bus. He said, “We could win this thing next year if we just selected one person. Let’s nominate Sheila.” I think the school officials counted the votes twice because they couldn’t believe it.

My parents sacrificed and worked lots of hours to make sure that we had an education. I majored in physical education at Virginia State College but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I graduated. My cousin Sandra Baxter was married to a captain at Fort Bragg. We went to visit him and the lightbulb came on. I loved the atmosphere and decided to join ROTC. It was an unusual choice because there were only a few women in the program. Col. Jona McKee, the professor in charge, was a Vietnam vet, so he actually knew what it took to be an officer. He didn’t cut us any slack, and I thank him today.

When I first entered the Army, I was a lieutenant stationed at Fort Meade, Md. My battalion commander was Lt. Col. Robert Bowtes. He called me in one day and he said, “Lieutenant Baxter, I want you to give me your 20-year plan.” And I said, “Sir, I don’t even know what I want to do in 20 minutes.” But it focused me. I came hack to him and I said, “Sir, I want to be like you. You are a battalion commander in a medical unit and that’s my goal.” He said, “OK, we’re going to map it out five years from here, 10, 15, 20, in five-year increments.” He said, “I’m going to send you to Korea.” A year and a half later, I was on my way to Korea. When I got back, I went to Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where I met my other mentor, Brig. Gen. Richard Ursone. He kept saying, “Baxter, here is where I think you ought to go.” He’s been my mentor since I was a captain.

The other thing that is very important is my spiritual background. I received my calling in the ministry in 1988 when I was stationed in Germany. The Lord called me through a dream. It was 2 in the morning and jumped up out of the bed . I heard his voice clearly. The next day I talked to my pastor and he put me into a training program. I was licensed with thc Church of God in Christ. When I retire, I plan to go to seminary and pursue a divinity degree.

I’m the commanding general at Madigan. We arc responsible for the health care far six surrounding states and also for soldiers coming back from Iraq and Af-ghanistan. Every week we go up on the yards and talk to the soldiers. You look them in the eye and they say, “Hey, I was just doing my job and I want to go back and be with my buddies.” That’s an incredible inspiration.

My sister Nadine and my other siblings have always been there for me. Being promoted to brigadier was huge. We had the ceremony at the Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. All of my family members were there, my brothers and sisters, my uncles and aunts. My father was an infantryman in World War II and two of my uncles have served . One of my brothers was Air Force, three cousins were Air Force, one was in the Marines and two were in the Navy. I have a niece who is in Iraq today. I’m very proud of her.




I grew up in Washington, and from my bedroom window you could see stars in those days. Watching was more interesting than sleeping. I started reading about astronomy because I was puzzled by what I saw. In the library, I found a biography of Maria Mitchell, a female astronomer who discovered a comet in 1847, and that’s about when I made my decision to become an astronomer. I applied to Vassar partly because Maria Mitchell had taught there. After three years, I graduated and married Bob. Our parents lived in the same apartment complex. He was studying physics, chemistry and math at Cornell. When I first met him, I asked if he knew Richard Feynman, who was teaching physics there and was someone I idolized. He said he was studying under Feynman. Why shouldn’t I marry him?

At Cornell, I opted for a master’s degree in astronomy because Bob was already enroute to a Ph.D. I had no women classmates in astronomy and only one or two in physics. For help with my work, I generally turned to Bob. I was very interested in how galaxies move relative to each other, so I analyzed galaxy motions for my master’s thesis. My results showed that there were large clumps of galaxies moving relative to other clumps, in addition to overall expansion of the universe. The chairman of the department said I really ought to present these results at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Philadelphia, but he added that, of course, I wouldn’t be able to because my first child would be only a few weeks old. Then he said that because I wasn’t a member, I wouldn’t be able to put my name on the paper anyway so he could put his name on it and present it. So 1 said, oh no, 1 can give it. My talk was brief. I didn’t know a soul. Afterward, there was much discussion about why the results couldn’t he correct. I thought these were very cross astronomers. One gentle astronomer from Princeton suggested I wait until there was more data. The headline in The Washington Post said, YOUNG MOTHER FINDS CENTER OF CREATION, or something like that.

We moved to Washington for Bob’s job, hut I was unhappy not doing astronomy and decided to get my astronomy Ph.D. at Georgetown. The physicist George Gamow was at George Washington University at the time and I met him and we talked about whether there was a pattern in the distribution of the galaxies. Georgetown agreed to let Gamow be my thesis adviser. Like my master’s thesis, my Ph.D. thesis was rejected for publication in the prominent astronomy journals, eliciting a postcard from Gamow, my strong supporter. He wrote: “I told you so.”

In 1965, when I was offered a job at the Department of’ Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution ot Washington, I said I wanted to go home at 3 every day. So they offered two thirds of the salary I was getting teaching at Georgetown. There had never been a woman staff member. Ten years later I asked to he paid full time, and I was. Then 1 said, “l’m still going home at 3.”

With Kent Ford, a stall member who had built a telescope instrument that could measure accurate motions of the galaxies, 1 spent my observing times over the next 25 years measuring speeds of stars in galaxies and motions of galaxies in the universe. Night after night, with my eye at the telescope eyepiece, I wondered if someone was looking down on our galaxy . Some exposures were six hours each, only two exposures on a long winter night. It could get very boring and almost tlisorienting. Every 20 minutes or so, 1 would flash a light just to show where the floor was. I always feel like I’m racing the sunrise when I’m observing. Now, you’re at the computer, not in the dome. It’s very unromantic. On the other hand, yon learn a lot more each night.

When Kent and 1 discovered that the motions of stars within a galaxy showed that most of the matter in a galaxy is invisible and not radiating, I expected we’d very soon learn what dark matter is. That was 30 years ago, and I’m impatient. We still don’t understand what dark matter consists of.

I’m also impatient about the progress of women in academia, which has been much worse than industry. The statistics for women scientists are pathetic. This is a battle young women may have to fight. Thirty years ago we thought the battle would be over soon, but equality is as elusive as dark matter.


TV executive

WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, MY FAMILY WAS TOTALLY ORGANIZED AROUND THE CHILDREN, and everything was about our education, our opportunities. There was no distinction between the boys and the girls . My mother told me to follow what I was passionate about and to believe that the only obstacles you’re going to have arc the ones that you fabricate for your-self . I always felt supported and accepted. No mistake was ever so big that you couldn’t go home and talk about it.

I went through a period of desperately wanting to he an actress and then had the very good fortune to have a friend who was a casting director. He had me audition far a commercial and after the audition, I went into his office and I saw stacks, and stacks, and stacks, and stacks of head shots. I realized I didn’t want to be a picture on the floor. I wanted to be involved in television, but not waiting to be called. I wanted to be engaged every day.

When I look back, I know I’ve taken a lot of jobs not because it was a repeat of my last job or the repeat of a previous success. I wanted and was excited by the challenge . If you don’t know how to do something or if something scares you or looks impossible, you’re going to work a lot harder, and in the end you’re going to be gratified.

Whether you have succeeded or failed, there’s a lot more gratification in trying something that you haven’t done and didn’t know how to do.

That’s what was so enticing to me about the new job 18 months ago. I had to figure out what I should be bringing into a world where we’re putting broadcast and cable and worldwide Disney channel and Soap net and NBC Family and TV anima-tion and all of these pieces together. How do you make that stronger and how do you make that a more powerful segment for the company? That excited me. But it was also the great unknown. When that particular bell goes off, I’m hooked.


I REMEMBER HEARING MUSIC BEFORE I COULD SPEAK. My parents would practice every day. I could probably sing you all of the warm-ups my mother used to play on the cello . My earliest memories are of people playing chamber music at our house . Later, when they both started working at the New York City Ballet, I would spend a lot of time listening and watching the dance. I was hearing music all the time. It just becomes part of who you are. When I was 7, I started going to a summer camp for violinists called Meadowmount. I also enrolled in the pre-college program at Juilliard. What I liked about the violin was the physicality of it, the way you hold it. I liked the social dynamic of it . At camp, I started playing in string quartets. At Juilliard, I played in the orchestra for the first time, and that blew me away. I really loved the people aspect. I don’t know if that’s because I’m an only child, but I was always drawn to being in groups.

I fell in love with the idea of being a conductor when I was 9. 1 was at a young people’s concert and Leonard Bernstein was conducting. It felt a little bit like what I imagine a calling would feel like . You just say, “That’s what I want to do. ” I’m sure it was his charisma but there were other things, too, especially the idea of being part of a huge team. All through my childhood I would always end up being the captain of the team even if I wasn’t a very good player. It’s all about the thrill of being able to galvanize people to a unified end game.

After I graduated from Juilliard, I started creating my own mini-galaxies. I had a string quartet, then a piano trio and then a string orchestra which I kind of led, and then a swing band. These self-generated projects seemed to work for me. In the late 1970s, I met an arranger who used to play with Woody Herman’s band. He wrote us some music. We didn’t even know what swing music was. We were all at Juilhard. What did we know? We played it like it was Mozart. It was pretty funny. He’s still one of my dear friends and I only wish I had a video of him laughing the first time he heard us!

I started getting called to do a lot of session work and put together string sections for recording dates and commercials. It paid real well. and I decided to save all my money so I could start my own orchestra, Concordia, The frustration of want-ing to be a conductor is that you can’t practice. All my musician friends in the orchestra were extraordinarily helpful, and they bad lots and lots of constructive criticism. Conducting’s all body language. When a woman makes a gesture, the same gesture as a male, it’s interpreted entirely differently. The thing I struggled with the most was getting a big sound from the bass because you really have to be strong. But if you’re too strong, your a b-i-t-c-h. As a ‘woman, you have to be careful tha t it’s not too harsh. It’s a very subtle line.

I applied to audition for Tanglewood five times before I got an audition. When I finally got an audition in 1988, I was just over the moon. One day they called me in and said, We’ve decided that you’re going to conduct the concert with Leonard Bernstein.” I was stunned. Bernstein came to the conducting class. He said hello to all his friends an(I then he said, “Wherc’s Maria?” I felt like the clouds parted and God was speaking to me. Bernstein was more than a teacher; he coaxed the essence out of people. He talked to me about being me. There was one rather cathartic rehearsal day where he came up to me and said “The conducting’s is fine but it really isn’t moving mc.’ It was so devastating. Then lie said, ‘Let’s give the orchestra a break and then you’ll come back and do this again.” Hc said forgct about conducting now. Just be yourself and be the music.” . But then I came back in and it was the weirdest experience. I felt like I’d had a massage. I thought I had nothing to lose, I’m just going to try it. I remember in the middle of the piece---- this makes me cry—he came up to me and whispered “That’s it.” It was so liberating.

Tanglewood opened up opportunities for me. Once 1 was able to get some audi- tions, I could win the job. I didn’t go into conducting to win a popularity contest. I became a conductor because I’m passionate about the music. And I’m passioniate about people doing the best and being the best they can be, and sometimes you have to push people to do that. If everybody just loves you , you’re probably not doing a good job. Mv past experiences with the Baltimore Symphony have been nothing but positive.

women leaders



October 24, 2005

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