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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Arianna Huffington

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


In addition to being the chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, the self-proclaimed "sleep evangelist" and Thrive author Arianna Huffington is on my radar this week for all she does to help women realize their potential, to grow both professionally and personally, and to succeed in a way that is balanced and true to their spirit.

At a recent Power of Pink lunch Huffington explained her new definition of success to crowds of admiring business women. "Right now we define success in terms of two metrics - money and power," Huffington said, "And this is like trying to sit on a two-legged stool: sooner or later you fall off."

Her book, Thrive, delves into Huffington's ideas on redefining success and creating a fulfilled life. She talks candidly about her own challenges in regards to managing time and prioritizing the demands of a career and raising her two daughters.

In Thrive Huffington mentions the importance of sleep and its relation to being and doing your best in the workplace, and offers tips for fostering an effective work/life balance.

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Nina McLemore

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


Nina McLemore's clothes may have been worn by Hilary Clinton, Janet Yellen, Indira Nooyi and other powerful women leaders, but it's her dedication to women in leadership and women looking to move up into leadership roles that have her winning hearts across the country. Like her clothes, she is vibrant, has a strong presence, and is admired by so many women across many fields, including both government and corporate leadership.

Nina and I have been friends for many years, we were both members of the Committee of 200 when she began her business. She would come to our annual meetings and have a "trunk showing" for all of us. This is how I was first introduced to her line, and decided to invest.

I felt that we were both all about helping other women succeed, beginning with sponsoring women's conferences at universities like Wharton and NYU. We were about empowering women to 'be all they can be,' and in her case, helping women to dress appropriately for the position they desire to have.

In a Wall Street Journal study that published earlier this month, it was estimated that at least a quarter of female chief executives at Fortune 500 comapnies have appeared publicly in her clothes or shopped with her label. The article that published the findings was simply titled, "Women in Power Know Nina." Her success is a testament to both her talent and the sentiment that there are currently more women holding government and corporate leadership positions than ever before - a great sign for not only Nina's continued success, but for our success as women in business as a whole.

Nina recognized an unmet need for women in leadership positions to find appropriate work clothes. She told the Wall Street Journal: "Most luxury companies don't focus on the American professional woman. There are many more wealthy non-working women in the world."

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Anna Maria Chavez

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


"More than Cookie Peddlers - Senior Executive Helps Young Girls 'Scout Out' their Career Choices"
This was the headline of an article in the Greenwich Times, April 24, 1988.
Does the mention of Girl Scouts conjure up images of little girls in green foisting chocolate-mint cookies on spineless dieters?
This came out when I was elected at the Girl Scout convention in 1987, to my first term on the Girl Scouts' board of directors. I remember that Maya Angelou was our guest speaker. I look back and realize that my Girl Scout troop was my first 'girl's network,' but of course we didn't call it that then.
For many women in America, including CEO Anna Maria Chavez, belonging to the Girl Scouts was their first exposure to leadership roles. This week we celebrate Chavez not only for her leadership role serving the same organization that helped her to grow, but for her continued pursuit of passing leadership skills down to the next generation of girls.
In her speeches to new generations of Girl Scouts, she shares the following four pillars of advice:
1. Dream big and make it happen. Chavez shared that her vision for her career was ultimately to make a difference in the lives of others. In 2011 Chavez created a campaign to encourage girls to pursue leadership roles, called "To Get Her There."
2. Build your team to achieve your dreams. In my both of my books, Become the CEO of You, Inc. and Women Count, I advocate the necessity for women to build a team around them who will support them and act as mentors along the journey to a leadership role. Chavez champions the same idea. She said that when it comes to building a team she looks at individuals' strenghts in order to place them in a postition within the organization that works with those strengths. She said she asks: "When you're working on a project, when do you feel like everything is clicking?"
3. Fake it until you make it. Chavez explained that she never let her lack of confidence show in times where she felt unsure. She was the first in her family to attend an Ivy League school, and the first student in her high school to be accepted into Yale. She went against the odds, and it paid off.
4. Feedback is a gift. Chavez said that she makes an effort to encourage people to provide feedback - in the Girl Scouts organization there are 360 regular evaluations, which come from the internal team, customers, and partners. She also conducts regular town hall meetings, speaking directly to Girl Scouts and volunteers.

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Michelle Howard

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


This past Tuesday marked an important milestone for the U.S. Navy, and also an important milestone for women. The White House announced that the Navy promoted Michelle Howard to admiral, solidifying her as the first female four-star officer in the Navy's 236-year history. She is now the Vice Chief of naval operations.

But Tuesday's news was not the first "first" in Howard's flourishing career in the Navy. She was also the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship: she commanded the amphibious dock landing ship "Rushmore" in 1999.

In her speech at Tuesday's ceremony, Howard reflected on how far women have come in the Navy: "If you don't believe today was a first, when I called to order four-star shoulder boards for women, they didn't exist. A special contract was let, and you folks are seeing the first set in the history of the United States Navy."

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called her promotion a "representation of how far we have come, and how far she has helped bring us."

In celebrating how far women have come in the field, it is important to note the timing of Howard's promotion, which also marked the six year anniversary of Army General Ann E. Dunwoody becoming the U.S. military's first female four-star officer.

To celebrate the full spectrum of advancements this week I also wanted to recognize someone who turned her "firsts" into 50 years of activism. I was watching CBS This Morning as Dolores Huerta was featured in an interview with CBS' Michelle Miller. Huerta has been a major player in the fight against inequality for more than 50 years, and she is not letting her mid-80's stop her. "Many of the issues that we fought and won in the civil rights movement have been rolled back," Huerta told Miller as she led protesters to the office of the newly-elected Majority Whip of the House of Representatives.

Championing immigration reform, Huerta chanted her signature "si se puede" or "yes we can" as dozens of protesters behind her joined the chorus. She mentioned to Miller that President Obama borrowed her line. When the president awarded Huerta with the Medal of Freedom in 2011 he responded to the alledged borrowing: "I'm pleased that she let me off easy, 'cause Dolores does not play."

Huerta may have given Obama some slack, but when it comes to fighting for equality and reform Huerta does not let playmakers get off so easily. From helping the civil rights movement gain traction in the south, to meeting Caesar Chavez, to working with Robert Kennedy, to the present day as she teaches new generations to speak out and organize, Huerta is a shining example of turning career "firsts" into a lifetime mission of progress and reform.

In celebrating Howard and reflecting on Huerta's career, ask yourself: what is my mission, and how can I turn my career into a string of "firsts," and then a history of success?

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Mia Birk

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


Mia Birk is a noted bike and pedestrian planner who heads the planning firm Alta Planning + Design in Chicago as well as Alta Bicycle Share. Birk got her start as the Bicycle Program Manager for the city of Portland Oregon in the '90s, and helped to launch the National Association of City Transporation Officials. This week we celebrate Birk for her fierce tenacity in taking action to make her vision a reality.

One reason that Birk is a great role model for women looking to build their careers is that she is exemplary of building a vision, one she takes active steps to fulfill each day. At a recent Streetsblog Chicago meet-and-great she noted that the rhetoric has changed "from 'cyclists' to just 'people.' We're just people. We get around by bike sometimes, we drive sometimes, we walk sometimes, we take transit sometimes. That's my vision."

Taking steps toward this vision, Birk is all about quality action and being heard: "20 years of trying, studying, pushing, sitting on committees, begging, pleading, whining, and we finally said, 'We're tired of playing in this sandbox, let's go create a new one.'

In her own way Birk is fighting for equality, working toward giving cyclists a face and earning rights for them in the city of Chicago through transportation planning and legislation.

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Leena Gade

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


For those of you who love cars, like myself, the 82nd edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours took place this past weekend, offering an array of classic cars locked in a race across the Circuit de la Sarthe. At the end of the 24-hour race it was Audi who came out in first, which is the crews' third win after victories in both 2011 and 2012. It was delightful to watch, and not just because of the classic race, but because of the victory for Leena Gade, the lead engineer for Audi. In 2011 Gade became the first female race engineer to win the world's greatest sports car race.

Leena Gade

Photo Credit: The Observer

Gade's role as a race engineer is to be on the pit wall, calling the strategy, managing the drivers, fueling and tending to the tires, as well as monitoring the technical information coming out of the car. In F1 racing the race engineer's role spans for about half an hour, but Gade ran the race for six, 12 and 24 hours.

When The Guardian asked her about how she made it in a male-dominated field, she said: "I nearly quit in the first week of my degree because I went from a girls school to being in a class full of men. I learned that I had to be one of the boys, I had to have the same level of banter, of crudeness, you had to mess around like they did purely to break down the barrier of them seeing you as a girl."

The Guardian also reported that in her particular program there were 95 students total, and only five were girls. By the end of the course only two women remained, including Gade.

But Gade followed her passion and accepted that becoming head engineer was her dream, she said that that alone was "a test of the people as much as the machines."

Her story reminds us that when it comes to equality, we as people are tested to make a change. So congratulations, Leena Gade, on another great race!

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Wednesday's Women of the Week: Women in Broadcast

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


This week I wanted to expand our focus to include not just one woman, but to extend the spotlight to women in broadcast who have made an impact during a difficult time in the field.



This past week, Page Six described what it believes is a "war on journalistic women." It cited that with Katie Couric gone from "Today," with Ann Curry in tears as she announced that she will leave the "Today" show, with Barbara Walters entering retirement, with Sue Simmons out of WNBC, and with Joan Hamburg's departure from the popular New York radio show WOR, the broadcast journalism field is a stark place for a woman.

Hamburg, a radio voice for 35 years, a Matrix awardee, a Hall of Fame Broadcaster, and New Yorker of the Year, was shocked to find that her program had been suddenly cancelled just minutes before she was to take the mic and go on air. She was denied an explanation, and she was denied a farewell to listeners who had been listening in for more than three decades.

But we will not deny her her many accomplishments. While it may seem that the world of journalism is turning its back on women, it is important to cite the contributions that female journalists have contributed to the world of the years.

I had the good fortune of getting to know Jane Pauley, who I lived across the hall from when we were both living in Chicago. Jane has been involved in news reporting since 1975, and though rumors swirl of a younger generation of women prepping to get in front of the camera she reminds us not to count out her generation of broadcasters just yet: "In our 60s we develop a confidence based on the experience and skills we have. We are more risk-takers."

The upcoming generation of women journalists, and women preparing to enter their professional field of choice, are encouraged to be risk-takers now more than ever, as Jane mentioned. Today marks the anniversary when the Nineteenth Amendment was proposed to Congress in 1919. Ratification was completed on August 18, 1920, and confirmed on September 21, 1920.

So today we celebrate women in broadcast who are taking risks to keep the golden age of women on TV alive, and we celebrate the risks all women have taken to do the same for their respective fields, from this date in 1919 and beyond.

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Maya Angelou

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


The world lost an amazing woman today. For this week's Wednesday's Woman of the Week spotlight I want to join the world in remembering Maya Angelou, legendary author, poet and actress. While we mourn her passing we also must celebrate her life and many achievements that inspired women around the world, and will continue to do so for future generations.

After hearing the news, Oprah captured Angelou's essence in a quote when she said: "She moved through the world with unshakable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds."

For many, like Oprah, Angelou was more than a literary voice. She was a message of hope. She was exemplary of a woman who took a stand, shown by her commitment to civil rights, one whose voice never fell silent through her 86 years.

She saw horrors in her life, but they never broke her spirit. Instead she turned her inner fire into a lasting contribution to literature, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." It was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970.

Her poetry changed the way many people read prose. She also wrote a cookbook, and was nominated for a Tony. She delivered a poem at a presidential inauguration, and in 2010 President Obama awarded her the Presidentail Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor one can receive in America.

So as we look back on Angelou's life and smile, and think about how grateful we are to have even lived in the same time as this amazing woman, her words have never been more true, we'll always remember the way she made us feel:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Barbara Walters

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


Monday marked the date of Barbara Walters' final day on "The View" - 5.2 million people tuned in. It was the biggest audience since Barack Obama was on the show in 2009. So today, in honor of her legacy, we spotlight Barbara Walters, celebrated TV personality, author, and journalist.

Among the surprise guests on the show on Monday were two other great women, one of which we featured just two weeks ago: Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton. They joined the current co-hosts in wishing Walters well as she says goodbye to on-camera work.

Walters started her national broadcast career in 1961, where she was a reporter, writer, and panel member for NBC's "Today" show before she became a co-host 13 years later. Two years later she moved to ABC, launching "The Barbara Walters Specials" and "10 Most Fascination People," as well as co-hosting for "20/20" in 1984.

She has interviewed every U.S. president and first lady since the Nixon administration. Throughout her career, Walters held her position with integrity and grace, and countless numbers of women looked up to her. Walters said those women were her legacy: "How proud when I see all the young women who are making and reporting the news. If I did anything to help make that happen, that is my legacy."

We nod to Walters because she followed her heart in her decision to move on, yet her career will still flourish behind the scenes. She will still serve as an executive producer of "The View," and will still make appearances for ABC News when needed. she will still be an inspiration to young women looking to follow in her footsteps. We nod to her because of the women she will not be leaving behind, those who she inspired, for which she had this to say: "I have to remember all of this on days that are not so great. I have to remember these women. I have to remember today."

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Wednesday's Woman of the Week: Gwen Ifill

by Susan Bulkeley Butler


This week we spotlight Gwen Ifill as Wednesday's Woman of the Week - she's the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and co-anchors PBS NewsHour with Judy Woodruff, both of which air on PBS. She also moderated the 2004 and 2008 Vice Presidential debates. I had the pleasure of seeing Gwen at the Vision 2020 congress in Philidelphia earlier this month.

Covering seven Presidential campaigns in the span of her career so far, Gwen is no stranger to breaking glass ceilings in a field dominated by men. She won the George Foster Peabody award for bringing Washington Week for bringing the show to live audiences around the country as part of a 10-city tour.

On PBS Gwen discusses the major issues of the week, lending her insight on news that affects nations around the world as well as our own, from foreign affairs to politics. Among her accomplishments, Gwen has more than twenty honorary doctorates, and Ebony Magazine added her to their list of 150 Most Influential African Americans.

We honor Gwen today because she is a testament to the fact that as women we have everything it takes to not just make it in the field we feel passionate about, but to thrive, and to mentor other women along the way. Together we can follow Gwen's example, and like she did at the Vision 2020 congress in Philadelphia, we can stand for equality for women.


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

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