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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Ellyn Shook

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


It was announced this past week that Accenture has teamed up Girls Who Code to support technology careers for young women. A great friend of mine, Ellyn Shook, chief human resources officer, played a major role in this initiative. I would like to celebrate Ellyn this week, and the effort she put into advancing women in girls in the tech industry, a realm sorely in need of more women.

"Every day we provide more than 100,000 women working at Accenture with the tools and resources they need to develop their careers and be successful," Ellyn told Yahoo! Finance last week, "By bringing these capabilities to Girls Who Code, we hope to inspire and guide more young women to become technology leaders."

According to the same Yahoo! Finance article, Girls Who Code is a national non-profit organization with a goal to close the gender gap in the techshnology field. Through its Summer Immersion Program and Girls Who Code Clubs, the organization is leading a movement to inspire, educate, and equip young women with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.

Just 25 percent of women in the U.S. workforce hold jobs in the technical or computing fields. Accenture, with Ellyn and her team's help, is looking to increase this number. Ellyn is currently responsible for Accenture's talent strategies program, and in this role she leads a global team of human resource professionals responsible for recruiting, learning and development, compensation, benefits, equity programs, engagement and retention, and employee relations. She's a member of Accenture's Global Management Committee.

Thank you, Ellyn, for all of the work you do at Accenture. Thank you for inspiring girls to pursue their dreams. It's programs and partnerships like these that will help get women on boards in the future, and that can help close the gender gap for good.


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 Twitter (@SusanBButler). I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Brownie Wise

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


Brownie Wise doesn't just have a name you won't forget, but she created a business empire that has seamlessly integrated its way into American homes since the 1940s: Tupperware. While on the surface Wise fit the profile of the sterotypical proper housewife, she took her business to a multi-million dollar comapny with her keen sense of networking, drive, and her ability to work as a team with the women she employed.

Wise, a single mother and former sales representative for Stanley Home Products, founded both Tupperware and the "party plan" system of marketing that she used to take it from a startup business to a multi-million dollar company. She was the first woman to appear on the cover of Business Week, and Sandra Bullock will star as her in an upcoming movie based on her life.

The first full year of Wise's CEO duties was 1952. Wholesale orders exceeded $2 million. During the last half of that year, that number tripled. Wise earned nearly $21,000 that year, which was the largest salary she had ever made. But Wise pushed further, traveling the country recruiting, leading sales conferences, and announcing prize incentives. She even gave away her own clothes, at times, for prize incentives.

Wise's business tactics reflect the sentiment that women need to work smarter by leveraging their networking skills, and that we can mentor each other and help one another move forward in our careers. Wise held Tupperware parties and invited women to not only buy the product, but to become Tupperware salespeople themselves. By late 1949 she had recruited 19 saleswomen, which was enough to grow her business from her home to a large warehouse. Growing her business organically, and by teaming up with other women, Wise attracted the attention of the founder of the Tupperware Corporation, Earl Silas Tupper.

Elsie Mortland, who was recruited at a Tupperware party and rose to become Tupperware's Home Kitchen Demonstrator, said in an interview: "No woman got praised for scrubbing floors. But when they got praised for selling Tupperware, they had something to be proud of."

Looking back at her career, Wise embodied the true spirit of a female entrepreneur. Her skills at incentivizing sales, networking and recruiting other women, publishing training materials like newsletters and infomercials, and becoming the face of her company solidified her as one of the greatest businesswomen and entrepreneurs of the 20th century.

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Elise Stefanik

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


Last night was a night of firsts. For starters, congress now has 100 women for the first time in U.S. history. Second, Elise Stefanik is one of those women, and she is the youngest woman ever elected to congress.

At age 30 Elise Stefanik won her race last night against Aaron Woolf in New York's 21st open district 56-32. She is the first Republican to win the district, which was previously held by Democratic Representative Bill Owens since 1993.

Stefanik has already received a lot of attention, and is quickly becoming the new face and image for the GOP. Her youth, energy and vitality is the GOP's ticket to appeal to younger demographics, and she is backed by supporters like House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevn McCartney, who campaigned for her on her trail.

But this is far from Stefanki's first forway into Washington politics. Previously she worked for the President George W. Bush administration on the Domestic Policy Council, where she oversaw both economic and domestic policty in the cheif of staff's office for Josh Bolten. She was also director of debate preparation during Paul Ryan's vice presidential campaign. In 2012 she helped write the Republican National COmmittee's platform.

Before Stefanik's win, the youngest elected Congresswoman was also a New Yorker: Elizabeth Holtzman, a Democrat, was elected to Congress in 1973 at age 31.

Regardless of your politics, who you voted for, or what your overall takeaway from the midterm elections were, there was a forward movement for women looking to pursue politics last night. Ironically enough, the message: yes we can.



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 Twitter (@SusanBButler). I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Sara Blakely

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


Oprah hailed Spanx as one of her favorite products of the year in 2000. You might have a pair in your closet right now. But who do we have to thank for this revolutionary shapewear, and what can we learn from her as a successful woman in business? Sara Blakely is the world's youngest self-made female billionaire, and her future is looking brighter than ever.

Blakely's road to Spanx began in 1998, after being a door-to-door fax-machine salesman left her feeling frustrated with traditional women's fashions she felt confined by, like bunching pantyhose. In response she designed a slimming version that would lie in a more fitted way under pants, and Spanx was born.

Her product is for every woman - professionals, hollywood starlets, and housewives all covet her brand. She now leads a company valued at more than a billion dollars, with products sold in 60 countries, yet still sees herself mostly as an inventor. She said that she does most of her thinking in the car, even thinking up the name "Spanx" at a red light. She said she purposely extends her driving commute by an hour to think and get inspired.

But Blakely is not only inspiring herself. She is also helping to inspire millions of female entrepreneurs looking to break through the glass ceiling. She created the Sara Blakely Foundation, which has donated $24 million to support education and female entrepreneurship.

So in addition to Blakely's many business accomplishments, it becomes clear to see that one of her biggest accomplishments yet is what she is doing for countless women and girls who follow in her footsteps. In the same way that her product is designed with every woman in mind, she is also tailoring her actions to support women looking to make a difference.


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 Twitter (@SusanBButler). I'd love to hear about the inspiring women in your life!

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Women's Media Center Honorees

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


One week from today, next Wednesday, October 29th, the Women's Media Center will be giving its 2014 awards to four women who are game-changers in the media. I would like to give them each a shout out tonight, Amma Asante, Ursula Burns, Katie Couric and Barbara Walters, as they prepare to collect their awards next week.


Amma Asante is receiving the Women's Media CENTER Directorial Excellence Award for Belle. Asante, a British writer-director, made a name for herself after the release of her critically acclaimed film, Belle, which is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate, mixed-race daughter of Royal Navy Captain Sir John Lindsay. It is a brave film that brought to light the difficult questions about the discrimination women face, both in the period the film is set and now. Asante's brave depiction of Belle is helping us to ask the right questions about how far we as a society have come, and how far we still have to go toward reaching equality.


Ursula Burns is receiving the WMC Carol Jenkins Visible and Powerful Media Award. Ursula is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Xerox Corporation. Burns is recognized at the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company, and the first woman to succeed another womas as head of a Fortune 500 company. This past year she was ranked by Forbes as the 22nd most powerful woman in the world.


Katie Couric is receiving the WMC Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award. Her name alone has become iconic. Couric has been a television host on all "Big Three" television networks in the United States: NBC News from 1989-2006, CBS News from 2006-2011, and ABC News from then to present.


Barbara Walters is receiving the WMC Media Trailblazer Award. I gave the spotlight to Walters in May after the accouncment of her last day on The View, and with such a long legacy there is no question that Walters has earned this award. As a journalist and respected personality, Walters continues to be a wonderful example for women looking to make a change.

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Malala Yousafzai (Round 2)

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


Though she has appeared in this feature once before, I thought it would be pertinent to recognize Malala again this week in light of her becoming the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize, at age 17.

Malala was awarded the Peace Prize along with Kailash Satyarthi, for "their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education."

In her speech, Malala recognized Satyarthi and spoke about their backgrounds and what a great honor it is to share a prize with someone from India while she is Pakistani: "One is from Pakistan. One is from India. One believes in Hinduism. One strongly believes in Islam. And it gives a message to people. It gives a message to people of love between Pakistan and India and between different religions. And we both support each other. It does not matter what's the color of your skin, what language do you speak, what religion you believe in. It is that we should all consider each other as human beings."

Included in message Malala said that the respect we carry for one another should extend to fighting for rights for all human beings, including women and children. She is known around the world as a champion of women's rights, who stood up bravely against the Taliban to express her beliefs on the importance of education for women and children.

"The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born," she told the United Nations last year.

Winning the Nobel Peace Prize is sure to have an impact on education. Just days after the announcement of the winners Malala took to YouTube to motivate young women and girls in every country to do one hour of educational work, like coding. "You can do it," she encouraged, "Even if you don't have a computer."

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Gender Equality = Men + Women Working Together

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


Throughout my career and my life advocating for women's equality in the workplace, I've come to realize something: Gender equality for women cannot happen without men.

It was great to hear, then, about the new United Nations program HeForShe -- appropriately characterized as "a solidarity movement for gender quality."

Actress, women's rights activist and U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson introduced the HeForShe program to the world at a special event in New York last week.

"We want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality," Watson said. "And we don't just want to talk about it, but make sure it is tangible." Read the entire speech here.

As Watson declared at the U.N., she is a feminist. She is proud to stand up and say that, despite the fact that the word "feminist" can be "uncomfortable."

I, too, understand the uncomfortableness that comes with the word.

But I have decided I am a feminist.

In 1965, when I hired as the first woman professional at Arthur Andersen & Co., I didn't think of myself as a feminist. Early on, I had a job, and soon realized that I needed to concentrate on "my career." How was I going to be admitted to the Partnership?

Fortunately, I had male friends to focus me in the right direction for promotion and to help begin to bring about equality. I got my first job at Arthur Andersen thanks to the foresight of a male professor at Purdue and others who realized that getting the job done right didn't depend on gender. Fourteen years later, when I was named the first female partner of Andersen Consulting -- now known as Accenture -- it was also because of the forward-thinking actions of many male partners.

We've come a long way, but women's success still depends on men -- whether we like it or not. The fact of the matter is that, with men holding 95 percent of the CEO positions and about 85 percent of all executive positions Fortune 500 companies, women simply cannot advance without the support of the men who are currently in charge. Unless the men at the top of our organizations strategically decide that equality at the top is the right thing to do, it won't happen.

For real change, and in order to get more women in charge, today's CEO's (mostly men) must have a strategy to achieve equality for men and women. This is more than having a concerted effort to recruit women professionals. They must "create the pipeline" for women, to ensure there are ample women candidates for all leadership positions when they become available. And they must make sure there are sponsorship and mentoring programs for women to show them the way.

The U.N. isn't the first governmental body to recognize the importance of men in the gender equality equation. Australia's appointed Sex Discrimination Commissioner in 2010 established that country's Male Champions of Change collaboration to have the male leaders make significant and sustainable change in the number of women in leadership roles in Australian companies, government and society.

The 30% Coalition, a group I belong to, organized a Champions of Change program.These executives seek to promote gender diversity in the corporate boardroom. They are public advocates to encourage other leaders to support their mission... to enlist more men in top corporate positions to recruit and develop more women to fill board seats.

With the HeForShe program, the United Nations recognizes that gender equality is a human right, and that having women in leadership roles makes society better in a myriad of ways.

Smart businesses realize also that gender equality makes companies better in a myriad of ways too.

According to Catalyst's groundbreaking 2011 study, "The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women's Representation on Boards," companies with three or more women board directors on average outperformed companies with zero women board directors -- by 84 percent when measured by return on sales and 60 percent when measured by return on invested capital.

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Mariam Al Mansouri

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


This week's woman of the week is a real first. Her name is Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, the first female fighter pilot in the United Arab Emirates' air force. She was also among the first women to graduate from the U.A.E.'s air force academy after it began to admit women, and this past Monday night she was the first to lead an airstrike.

On MSNBC's program "Morning Joe," ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said of al-Mansouri: "She is a fully qualified, highly trained, combat-ready pilot and she led the mission."

Breaking down both gender barriers and gender stereotypes associated with conservative Islamic societies, Otaiba said that the debate over the role of women in society showed a "crucial difference in the divergent visions of moderates and extremists in the Muslim world," according to the New York Times.

al-Mansouri, 35, said she dreamed of becoming a pilot since high school, but had to wait until women were allowed to enter the air force academy. In the meantime she earned an undergraduate degree in English literature and worked for the armed forces in the capacity she was allowed to. In 2007 she graduated from Khalifa bin Zayed Air College, and she now flies the Block 60 model of the American-built F-16 fighter jet.

An Abu Dhabi newspaper, The National, wrote a profile on al-Mansouri in which she offered advice for any women aspiring to become a fighter pilot: "Be prepared, as it is a time- and effort-consuming field that requires a great deal of passion."

For many, the middle east is the last place one would expect a woman in a lead military role such as the one al-Mansouri currently serves. While the U.A.E. may still have obstacles in the realm of women's rights, al-Mansouri's role no doubt represents a positive step - one that the U.A.E. supports, as the government and fellow male pilots and trainers played a critical role in her rise to leadership. She is a testament to women's ability to shatter glass ceilings in any field, no matter where they are and no matter what their dream may be.

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Emma Watson

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


She's a familiar face who won us all over with her many roles on the silver screen, she was named a United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador this past summer, and now that she has made her presence known she's ready to make it count.

Emma Watson delivered a speech this past Saturday, at a special event for the HeForSheCampaign at the United Nations Headquarters, on gender equality. Her words were so powerful they gripped the nation, and the speech went viral. Watson, 24, spoke eloquently and passionately about the misconceptions surrounding feminism, and explained that the HeForShe campaign's goal is to motivate men and boys to end gender inequality.

The speech's power speaks for itself. You can see the full transcript here, but these are a few of my favorite parts of her speech:

"We want to end gender inequality—and to do that we need everyone to be involved."

"I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive."

"I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights. No country in the world can yet say they have achieved gender equality."

"Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too."

"If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are—we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom."

"the reality is that if we do nothing it will take 75 years, or for me to be nearly a hundred before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls will be able to receive a secondary education."

And finally, as I let her words sink in, I'll join her in echoing her sentiment of change: if not me, who? If not now, when?

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Kathryn Bufano

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


A few weeks ago I chose my good friend Nina McLemore as my woman of the week, highlighting that female CEOs in the retail industry are few in number. So this week I would like to celebrate another female CEO who is making waves in the fashion world: Kathryn Bufano, the new CEO of Bon-Ton Stores Inc., who was also just hailed as the 52nd female CEO in theFortune 1000.

With Bufano on the Fortune 1000 list, the overall percentage of women has risen to an all-time high of 5 percent. The number is increasing, but we have a long way to go to get to 50 percent.

In reaction to her number 52 spot, Bufano told Fortune: "I heard there weren't a lot of women CEOs, but when I heard that number of 52 out of 1000 I was surprised by that. There are a lot of women business leaders and many of them run small businesses. I think it is just a matter of time before that number will grow. I am proud and excited for the opportunity to run a public company, but there is also a lot of private companies and small business that have a lot of women in leadership."

As one of just a small handful of women CEOs at major retailers in the U.S., Bufano joined Bon-Ton from Belk Inc., where she grew sales, fostered strong relationships with suppliers, and kept the merchandise on-trend and true to the brand. With this healthy list of credentials, all eyes have been on Bufano to duplicate her success for Bon-Ton: "We expect new CEO Kathy Bufano to successfully navigate [Bon-Ton] through the next leg of its turnaround. Ms. Bufano has a strong track record as President and Chief Merchant at Belk and we think her experience is very transferable, particularly her strong relationships with both moderate and better national brands," said David Glick, an analyst at Buckingham Research Group.

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

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