A Few Good Women
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As one of the first women to graduate from Harvard Business School, I experienced first-hand the importance of women supporting each other. In 1964, I was one of only 12 women out of 632 students in Harvard’s MBA class. I am amazed at women's accomplishments over the last five decades. It was such unknown territory when we started out.
I initially went worked for Singer Company in New York City, where I was one of the first MBA”s they hired – and the first woman. I joined the corporate planning staff and created a new environmental analysis function, to watch trends and analyze competition worldwide. After four years at Singer, First National City Bank (now Citibank), recruited me for another position in a newly-created corporate planning Department.
As at Singer, I found that there were some men who just didn’t take women seriously. One time when I knew I didn’t get as much of a salary increase as the guy who worked beside me, I raised that issue and was told, ‘You don’t need that salary increase. You’re doing fine for a girl, and, besides, you have a husband who works.’
Women today know the importance of networking but back then we didn’t have many formal organizations to help us advance our careers or overcome adversity. So we established informal groups and made it up as we went along. In the mid-1960s, Charlotte Browne-Mayers, an executive at Standard Oil Company (now Exxon) and I hosted get-togethers with some of my former business school classmates and other working women. ‘The Group’ met once a month in someone’s apartment. We’d have some glasses of wine and talk about our careers and our experiences. It was consciousness-raising and how to get over the obstacles of the workplace, even though we didn’t call it that at the time.
When I joined the Nixon administration in 1971 to recruit women for high-level federal government positions, these connections with women in business proved invaluable. They served as the foundation for a talent bank of highly qualified women.
I hope you’ll join at the CWB event on June 7 discussing the book A Matter of Simple Justice, the story of how “A Few Good Women” cracked the glass ceiling and opened up opportunities for generations to come. A mentoring and networking session will follow for professional women in the Washington, DC area.