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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Misty Copeland

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


Yesterday, Misty Copeland made ballet history by becoming the first African-American woman to be promoted to the highest rank of the American Ballet Theatre: principal dancer. This is a first in the company's 75-year history. This week I want to congratulate Misty for this monumental achievement, for following her dreams and taking them all the way.

She first joined the company in spring of 2001, and often spoke of her desire to be named the first African-American woman to be named a principal dancer at the company.

In her memoir, "Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina," which came out last year, she said: "My fears are that it could be another two decades before another black woman is in the position that I hold with an elite ballet company... That if I don't rise to principal, people will feel I have failed them."

After 14 years, she achieved her goal, and became a noteable figure along the way: she was the first ballet dancer to appear in an Under Armour advertisement last year, she appeared in a Diet Dr. Pepper commercial, and even danced on top of Prince's piano in 2010. The Under Armour commercial earned more than four million views on YouTube within its first week. The tagline they used was "I will what I want." That is true of Misty today.

Misty started practicing ballet at 13, and has followed her dreams all the way through. Olympic gold medal gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, commented on her story in Time, saying that she "followed her dreams and refused to give up." She went on to add: "She is a model for all young girls... It doesn't matter where you're from. If you have the passion like Misty, you can be the best at what you do."

That's something we can all take away from Misty's story, because her story is one of a woman who wasn't afraid to follow her dreams, pursue her passion, and take it to the top. She has a bright career ahead of her, no doubt inspiring countless young dancers of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to follow in her footsteps - or, I should say, ballet slippers.


Wednesday's Woman of the Week is a weekly feature. If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know on my Facebook page or on Twitter. I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Sheryl Sandberg

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


First, she changed lives with her Lean In message. Now, she's reminding us what it means to be human: to be successful in business, and to live a full life with all of its ups and down. I want to celebrate Sheryl Sandberg this week for all she's accomplished, and for redefining the ways in which we discuss personal tragedies inside and outside of the workplace.


Sheryl's list of accolades are so impressive it would take multiple blog posts to cover them - so here's a snapshot: she's the COO of Facebook, noteable woman billionaire, featured in Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World list, best-selling author, and activist and founder of the Lean In movement.

At present, she's also adding "human being" to that list. The Facebook post she wrote after the loss of her husband, Dave Goldberg, may be one of the most raw, personal messages we've heard from women leaders in the past year, and it's all about being human.

"A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes," Sheryl wrote in Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. The goal of the Lean In movement is to encourage women to lean in to positions of leadership, because having more female voices in leadership positions will lead to the creation of more equitable opportunities for everyone. In her book, which has sold more than one million copies, she opened a conversation about gender equality and reminds us that we need to examine the societal barriers that hold women, and our world as a whole, back from achieving leadership roles and fostering change.

Over the last two months, Sheryl reminds us that our workplaces and executive boards need, and can thrive, on our humanity. She writes candidly about how many of her colleagues faced difficulty in finding the "right" way to acknowledge her tragedy, and what she needs from them: "When I am asked 'How are you?' I stop myself from shouting, 'My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am?' When I hear 'How are you today?' I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day."

"I have lived 30 years in these 30 days," Sheryl wrote,"I am 30 years sadder. I feel like I am 30 years wiser... I have learned to ask for help, and I have learned how much help I need. Until now, I have been the older sister, COO, the doer and the planner."

In writing about the nuances of her experience, dealing with grief in the workplace, she highlights that emotion and "lacking executive presence" should not be mutually exclusive. In fact, she's standing up for open and honest discussions, citing that our discomfort with our own humanity is causing disconnection in the workplace.

So this week I want to honor, and thank, Sheryl, not only for sharing her own humanity, but for helping to give ours a place both in the workplace and on the leadership board.


Wednesday's Woman of the Week is a weekly feature. If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know on my Facebook page or on Twitter. I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Jennifer Bailey

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


This week I would like to celebrate Jennifer Bailey, vice president in charge of Apple Pay, who became the first woman tech executive in almost five years to appear on the stage, at the Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. Bailey discussed progress in mobile payments for Apple's latest initiatives, and ended a dryspell that desparately needed to be broken.

Bailey took the stage for the keynote presentation, where she spoke in front of a crowd of software developers and journalists to discuss Apple Pay's progress.

It is also important to give mention to Susan Prescott, who also took the stage to give a pitch for Apple's upcoming News application.

This past Monday marked the first time women executives have been included on the stage during an Apple keynote presentation since 2010, when Farmville was launched and demonstrated by Jen Herman.

Because of the rise in media attention toward gender inequality in male-dominated Silicon Valley companies, and the tech industry as a whole, Apple has taken a clear stance on the issue. In fact, Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, said in an interview days before the event that the industry needs to do a better job in tackling gender issues in the workplace.

So now we congratulate Jennifer for her accomplishments in the tech industry, and the bright future she has in front of her as gender equality in the field becomes more and more in focus and more women join her ranks. We're grateful for one of Silicon Valley's leading company giving women employees a chance to take the stage and showcase their work and stories - and the next big achievement will be when Jennifer is one of many women presenting and participating in events such as these.


Wednesday's Woman of the Week is a weekly feature. If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know on my Facebook page or on Twitter. I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

Wednesday's Women of the Week: Hillary Clinton and Nina McLemore

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


I came across this article in Fortune last week, which discussed two women I have celebrated on this blog before: Hillary Clinton and my friend Nina McLemore. I'm happy to shout out to these two women again today, as Hillary wears Nina's designs and presents herself to the country as a presidential campaign runner.

Nina and I met and became friends as a result of the Committee of 200, and other programs we participated in for women on college campuses. I was there when she was starting the Nina McLemore brand to meet the needs of business women - and now presidential candidates like Hillary. It's great to see two powerful and impactful women come together in this way.

The "pantsuit" has been Hillary's signature look and trademark style for years. She buys many of them from Nina's line, but when it comes to Nina's designs it's not just about buying the clothes. Nina encourages women to embrace fashion and their own personal style as a communication tool.

In an interview with Politico Nina said: "I personally think it's hard for women to have charisma, where some men have it in spades. We can't change the fact that we're women, but we can put forth our best image for the result we want."

In addition to Hillary Nina has dressed other women in politics, such as Elizabeth Warren and Janet Yellen.

Later in the interview, Nina added: "People often harp on the whole concept of 'we shouldn't be talking about what a female is wearing,' but we should. It's a very important topic, in fact. I don't think a lot of people, women in particular, realize how strong the power of how we look really is... Once the brain makes a conclusion about a person, based on a first look, whether that impression is positive of negative, it's done; it's not just a first impression, it's a stamp."

It's important to think about how you're communicating with the world through what you're wearing. Ask yourself: are you dressing for the job you want? Does the way you dress represent you, and the confidence you want to exude? As Hillary presents herself to the country in Nina's designs, rest assured her impression will be of a strong, confident woman with poise.


Wednesday's Woman of the Week is a weekly feature. If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know on my Facebook page or on Twitter. I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

Women Peace Activists Achieve The Impossible: Crossing The DMZ

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


This week I would love to extend my congratulations to Gloria Steinem, as well as Nobel Peace Laureates Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee, and the group of international women activists who crossed the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea by bus this past weekend.

The group of 30 members, called WomenCrossDMZ, picked up the bus on Sunday Morning that ferried them across the Demilitarized Zone that has been separating the two Koreas for more than 50 years.

Steinem said: "We feel very celebratory and positive that we have created a voyage across the DMZ in peace and reconciliation that was said to be impossible."

She went on to add: "We can learn on paper and on screen, but the ability to understand, not just learn, happens when we are together and able to empathize."

The group promoted involving women in the peace-building process when it comes to negotiations between countries in tension.

This is a great accomplishment for women all over the world. Women are agents of change on an international stage, and have done the impossible by crossing this barrier. Together, women can accomplish feats of peace that we have only dreamed of until today.

An Open Letter to the 2015 College Graduates

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


The following is inspired by Susan’s commencement speech at Cottey College for the class of 2015.


Dear college graduates,


When I was in your seat 50 years ago, I was a young woman aspiring to land a job in a work environment dominated by men. Today, we have two women running for president. We have women leading some of the most important and influential companies in the country. And we have opportunities like we've never had before.

After today, it’s your turn to seize these opportunities. You now have the training. You now have the knowledge.

This next transition you're facing isn't just an opportunity to move from the campus to a corporate office, higher education or more specialized training. This transition is an opportunity for you to start changing the world - not just for yourself but for those who will graduate in the future.

This is an opportunity to make things happen for you rather than leting things happen to you.

When I graduated from college, I was fortunate to be offered a position as the first woman professional at Arthur Andersen, which eventually became Accenture, the $30 billion global management and consulting company.

Times have changed. Today, women comprise over 50 percent of the workforce. Women earn more college degrees than men – not just at the undergraduate level, but right up to the doctorate level.

Yet while women have made great strides, let’s not fool ourselves.

Gender inequality, pay inequality, sexism – it’s all still alive and well in today’s workforce, just as it was 50 years ago. Today, women typically make about 75 cents for every $1 a man makes. Of the Fortune 500 companies, only 25 are run by women. Twenty-three of the Fortune 500 companies have absolutely no women on their corporate boards.

All of these numbers MUST change! So how do we make these changes? These changes will be up to you and others of your generation.

In order to have more women leaders in the top jobs in America, women like you must work your way up and into the CEO’s suite.

In order to improve pay and address gender inequality, we must demand it – from our employers, from our lawmakers, from the companies whose products we buy.

In order to bring more women into management roles, you must bring them up the ladder behind you as you move up. And you must also enlist the help of men, as long as men are still in control of 75 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.

Sounds daunting?

You thought graduating college was tough. And now I’m saying it’s up to you to change the world.


So where do you start? Start with you.


Several years ago, I wrote a book called “Become the CEO of You, Inc.” Before you can become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and change the world, you have to become the CEO of you.

How do you do that? In my book, I suggested three easy steps.

Here’s Step One. Define your aspiration. What are you doing in 3 years? In 5 years?

Step Two. Assemble your team. These are your advisors, your mentors, your LinkedIn and Facebook friends who not only know of jobs out there, but can help you with the skills and the connections to get them.

Step Three. Set your course in life. Program your personal GPS for where you want to be in three years. And in three years after that.

Work your plan. If you have to make some unexpected detours along the way, that’s OK. Just like a GPS, make some adjustments and back on – and stay on – course.

And here’s the last thing I’ll mention.

When you DO become the CEO of that major company or start the next Google or Facebook – and I know you will - don’t forget other women. Making true changes for women means we must watch out for other women. We must fill the pipeline with smart women all along the way.

And today, I want to celebrate your success, and the many more successes to come for you. For your fellow graduates across the country, and for all women.

Be the CEO of You, Inc., make things happen for you rather than let things happen to you, and make the world a better place for your having been here.

From your coach,


Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Sarah Thomas

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


It's not every day you hear about a woman making NFL history. This week I want to celebrate a woman doing just that: Sarah Thomas, the first full-time woman official in the NFL.

A 19-year veteran of the organization, Sarah was promoted after eight years with Conference USA. In an interview with after the announcement of her promotion was made, she said: "I don't feel that it's been harder for me because I'm a female. I think that we are just out here working as officials. I think just on our credentials, just as officials, I think that's what moves us along, not because of our gender or our race."

In that same interview, Sarah called the promotion a "dream" come true.

She was also the first woman official to work a major collegiate bowl game, and she joins eight other referees granted first-time employment for league games. She did sideline work for the Browns, Saints, and Colts, as well as other minicamp practices. However, the NFL credits her work at the NCAA level that added so much strength to her resume.

On her dedication to her role, an annonymous official told ESPN: "She's doing this because she loves college football and she loves refereeing college football... One thing she and I discussed is taht she didn't want her gender to be an issue. She just wanted to go out and work football games."

In learning from Sarah, we can all follow her lead in following our passion to shatter glass ceilings, and to carry a gender neutral attitude when entering a new space, allowing a strong resume and commitment to the job to do the talking.


Wednesday's Woman of the Week is a weekly feature. If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know on my Facebook page or on Twitter. I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Carly Fiorina

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


Nearly a month ago I celebrated Hillary Clinton in my Wednesday spotlight after she announced her presidential campaign. For the sake of being fair and balanced, and to celebrate having two women from opposing parties on the campaign trail, I would also like to congratulate Carly Fiorina on her presidentail run.

Carly is a former business executive, in fact she was considered to be one of the most powerful women in business during her time at Lucent and Hewlett-Packard, and I look forward to hearing more about her unique perspectives and stances on the important issues as the campaign progresses.

In following the media reports after her campaign announcement, it was a great thing to see her former CEO status as the "only woman in a sea of suited men" mentioned as a positive. This is an opportunity for the country to start viewing women in business, at any level, as national agents of change, capable of great things even beyond the board room.

In an interview with Fox News, Carly said: "I think leadership is not about position. It is not about power. It is not about title. Leadership is about character." Later, she added: "It is only in the United States of America that a young woman can start as a secretary and go on to become the chief executive of the largest technology company in the world."

From leading a company to leading a country, Carly's thoughts on leadership are being thrust center stage as Americans seek out more information about her new campaign. On leadership, Carly makes the distinction that "leadership is not the same as management." She said that when a change needs to occur, "leadership is about changing the status quo," and went on to say that she believes that that is what is needed in Washington right now.

It is also what is needed when it comes to gender inequality. It is my hope that both campaigns, from Hillary and Carly, will further open up the discussion of what we can do to make a change for women everywhere.


Wednesday's Woman of the Week is a weekly feature. If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know on my Facebook page or on Twitter. I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Loretta Lynch

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman and the second woman overall to hold this office, has been officially on the job for two days, having been sworn in on April 27. I want to not only congratulate her for that, but also for rising to the occasion in facing a challenge she couldn't have anticipated when she was first given the job.

Instead of focusing on settling into her new position, she was faced with delivering her first presidential briefing as attorney general to the White House yesterday, after riots broke out in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray's funeral.

Lynch's appointment as the first African-American woman U.S. Attorney General stands in stark contrast with the racial tension and issues playing out in Baltimore right now, which center around Freddie's mysterious and tragic death while in law enforcement custody. She has said that her civil-rights division, like it did in Ferguson, Missouri, and the FBI are both investigating his death.

In her briefing, the White House said that Lynch: "Assured the president that she would continue to monitor events in Baltimore and that the Department of Justice stands ready to provide any assistance that might be helpful there."

While many in her position would prefer to focus on her goals, messaging, and strategies for her future as the U.S. Attorney General, Lynch has had to deal with the media and making the decision to dispatch the Justice Department's top civil rights official and the director of its community policing program to Baltimore after riots broke out - all within 24-28 hours of officially being in office.

Lynch has condemned the "senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers," and added,"We will continue our careful and deliberate examination of the facts in the coming days and weeks."

Many times in our careers we'll have to face the unexpected - most likely when we feel the least prepared to handle a crisis. Only hours on the job, Lynch has proven to be unshakable and in control, and we can all applaud and learn something from her decisive leadership under adverse circumstances.


Wednesday's Woman of the Week is a weekly feature. If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know on my Facebook page or on Twitter. I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Lynne Doughtie

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


This week I want to spotlight Lynne Doughtie, who took the reins as chairman and chief at KPMG, becoming their first woman CEO. With Doughtie's new title, two of the Big Four accounting and professional-services firms in the U.S have women CEOs. Cathy Engelbert, who I wrote about here, was the first woman CEO of one of the Big Four firms.


Doughtie has been with KPMG for 30 years, and her five-year term as CEO and chairman will begin on July 1. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last Tuesday, Doughtie said: "It is an honor to have the chance to lead KPMG at such a pivotal moment, when ensuring quality and confidence in the work we do have never been more important."

KPMG's U.S. consulting practice is KPMG's fastest-growing business. Last year's fiscal revenue was $2.65 billion. Doughtie began her career as an auditor in 1985, and then went to the advisory side in the 1990s.

Let's take a look at the numbers: 18 of the 100 "best companies to work for" list from Working Mother magazine are accounting or cunsulting firms, and all of the Big Four are included. 44.5 percent of KPMG's American workforce are women, about 27,000 women total. 19 percent of KPMG's partners are women, which has increased by six percent in the last 12 years.

The accounting and professional services field is one of the more welcoming to women, though there is still progress to be made, and Doughtie's new title will hopefully help to make strides in that area. Accounting firms still need to grow when it comes to retaining women. A 2013 study by the American Institute of CPAs said that women make up 40 percent of certified public accountants, but only 19 percent of the partners at CPA firms, and only 17 percent at larger firms.

Federal Reserve data shows that none of the top 30 federally regulated lenders in the U.S. by assets have a woman CEO. It is my hope that Lynne Doughtie and Cathy Engelbert will help change this number, and start a new trend with women earning more CEO and leadership positions.

For the first time, women lead half of the Big Four accounting firms in the country. The Washington Post quoted Doughtie as saying that though she and Engelbert have not met yet, their organizations "have already been in conversation about best practices on the gender and diversity front." Let's do our part to start this conversation as well, and let's congratulate Doughtie on her monumental achievement.


Wednesday's Woman of the Week is a weekly feature. If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know on my Facebook page or on Twitter. I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

Women Count White Border
$24.95, Hardcover
256 Pages
September 2010
Purdue University Press

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