Susan B. Butler is the CEO of The Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders. Prior to founding the Institute, Butler established herself as an accomplished business leader. She joined Arthur Andersen & Co. as its first professional female employee in 1965, and 14 years later, was named the first female partner of its consulting organization, Andersen Consulting.
Butler holds a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial management and an Honorary Doctorate in management from Purdue University. As a philanthropist, she has endowed chairs, scholarships and the Butler Institute for Leadership Excellence. She received the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Governor of Indiana for distinguished service to the state. Butler is past president of Purdue's President's Council, and past member of the Board of Directors of the Purdue Research Foundation.
In an interview with the Times, Butler shares her views on the "glass ceiling", and whether or not true progress is being made in breaking down barriers for women in business.
The Times: How has the glass ceiling changed since you first encountered it in your career?
Susan B. Butler: The number of women CEO's in Fortune 500 companies have increased over the years. When Ginni Rometty was announced there would be 18 going into 2012. However, one (The CEO of Avon) has stepped down. We need to have 100 female CEO's by the year 2020 to get up to 20 percent. If we had at least one on each company board of directors we could achieve that goal. And there are qualified women available. Companies need to begin developing more women for senior leadership and boards of directors. That would increase the pipeline of qualified candidates. Women also need to be helping other women to be successful at these levels.
TT: What types of careers are good for women to consider, in terms of being accepted/promoted easier? Conversely, what careers might be more difficult to break through the glass ceiling?
SBB: I still believe that women should get more technical skills, such as math, science and technology. No matter where women choose to take their careers, these skills will be essential. Computers are going to be everywhere. Look at the changes that have been made just in the last few years.
Parents also need to be more focused on their daughters and granddaughters to make it a better world for them. These young women need mentoring and grooming just like their sons and grandsons. Men who have read my recent book, "Women Count: A Guide to Changing the World" have told me that every man should read it. They would truly understand where women are and where they aren't and why they should be where they aren't.
TT: Is it harder for a woman who is starting a career after raising children? Is it easier for younger women who may have youth/looks on her side?
SBB: I believe that women should start their careers after they graduate from high school and/or college. Women today will probably spend 30-plus years working. If they begin to develop a career prior to having children, they can probably continue to work part-time from home to continue. Then, after a few years, the mother can consider going back to work on a more full-time basis. In a recent book: "What Happy Working Mother's Know", it says that the kids want their mom's to be happy and if working does that for them, then the kids are happy.
There has been a big change in the last few years regarding people working from home. Many years ago there was an article in the Harvard Business review entitled the "Mommy Track". It was truly before it's time. But there is a real "Mommy Track" today, if women choose to take it.
TT: Public sector vs. private enterprise. Which one has made more advancement? Why?
SBB: Become the CEO of You, Inc. What is important is that women take responsibility of who they are and who they want to be. Women need to follow their passion and develop their resume with the skills, capabilities, and experiences to get the job they want. In today's world there are a lot more resumes each company has to review. Women need to send their resume to the company who will want to "buy" them to deliver value to their company.
Women will do better in their work if they are passionate about what they are doing and if they are using their skills. They should know what their skills are and match them with the jobs where they can use them.