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Alums Who Smashed the 'Glass Ceiling' Share Insights

Top corporate alumnae told how they smashed the 'glass ceiling'

By Emily Harrison Weir

"Yes, there is a glass ceiling for women. But when I started to work, it was in the laundry room. Today, it's in the great room‹the one with twenty-four-foot ceilings‹so we've come a long way," said Roberta Puschel '65, managing director at J. P. Morgan and former vice president of New York's Federal Reserve Bank. "Today we're in the mainstream of our organizations. We're playing with the big boys now." Puschel was one of five high-ranking corporate alumnae who shared their experiences at "Smashing the Glass Ceiling: Women Discuss Power and Gender in the Corporate World." The March event was the inaugural symposium of the Center for Leadership and Public Interest Advocacy.

Although the women's experiences and career fields were quite varied, certain common themes emerged. Willingness to work as hard and as long as it takes to get the job done well, ability to travel frequently and to do self-promotion, and the need for lots of personal energy and a sense of humor were frequently mentioned. Several noted the loss of personal and family time as costs of career achievement.

Among their suggestions for corporate success:

  • "Don't let career hurdles make you bitter. Use your anger effectively by saying, 'I'm gonna beat that guy.'"--Barbara Moakler Byrne '76, managing director of Lehman Brothers

  • "Use your head (focus on the issue). Use your hands (do the job, whatever it takes). Use your heart (believe in yourself and your instincts.)"--Margaret "Peggy" Wolff '76, senior partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher

  • "Identify the transferable skills you can gain and consider how you can sell them to employers at the next level. Sell yourself; that's the most important thing."--Karen Davis-Delk '82, senior vice president at GE Capital Corporation

  • "You must promote yourself. Don't be humble, though you've been raised to be. Make sure you're heard."--Stella Kang '94

Photo by Jim Gipe