Business

Millionaire businesswoman shares secrets of success

SALEM ? Self-made millionaire Vicki Donlan says it’s time for women to lead the nation’s business community.To make sure people get the message, she has authored a book on the subject, entitled “Her Turn.”Publisher of the Boston-based monthly newspaper, Women’s Business, Donlan reminds audiences like the one gathered earlier this month at the Salem State College Enterprise Center, that today’s numbers actually favor women.For example: 52 percent of the U.S. population is female; 65 percent of all graduate students are women; 50 percent of all law and medical students are women; and half of all business owners are women.Donlan is armed with plenty of related facts, such as women are responsible for 85 percent of all consumer purchases, suggesting phenomenal buying power as they vote for products with their dollars. By 2010, more than 60 percent of the nation’s wealth will be controlled by women.Despite these positions of strength, only nine women rank among the chief executive officers of the Fortune 500 companies; only 16 percent of the U.S. Congress is female; and only one Supreme Court judge is female.Perhaps most tellingly, there has never been a woman U.S. President.Some of the obstacles are inherent in American cultural values, she says, offering this comparison: “When men are aggressive, they’re viewed as assertive. When women are assertive, they’re view as aggressive.”Paraphrasing feminist Gloria Steinham, she says equality can only occur when men can be fathers at home, raising the children if they prefer, rather than serving as the family’s primary breadwinner.”If women talk about a career, people always ask, what about the children? If a woman goes right back to work after having a child, some people ask if everything is OK at home. Nobody would ask a man why he came back to work so soon after having a child,” says Donlan.Christine Sullivan, executive director of the Enterprise Center, believes women need an extra decade in which they can bear and raise children, then return to their careers. “That’s what is missing,” she says.As a step toward strengthening the position of women, both in society and the business world, Donlan offers a few rules. “Become less judgmental of each other,” she says, recalling Madeline Albreit’s observation, ?There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t support each other.’ Stop the divide between career women and stay-at-home moms. It’s not about who does what. I still make my husband’s lunch every day and it’s a joy.”Donlan urges women to define themselves. “We should all be treated equally, men and women. The wage gap must end,” she says, admonishing those who tolerate sexist jokes at women’s expense and unfair wages.A self-made millionaire, Donlan was the brainchild behind Women’s Business, growing it into a respected monthly publication with enough advertising to make it profitable. She eventually sold the business but retained editorial control, and today works from an office in the Boston Herald building.”I had an exit strategy from the very beginning,” she says, encouraging other women in business to follow suit. “We all have eight to 10 jobs in the course of a career, and those are eight to 10 opportunities to start fresh.”In doing so, women must create a business plan for a needed product or service. Among her golden rules: have an exit strategy; know when to cut your losses; know what you want; plan your future right now because your future is already here.Donlan stresses that the meeting among women’s rights leaders Elizabeth Katy Stanton and others in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848 was critical to social change. As she tells it, during that period in American history, women couldn’t vote, had not property rights, no child custody rights, couldn’t be doctors or lawyers, couldn’t attend college, and were totally dependent on men.”Those were the grievances in 1848,” she says. “Now fast-forward 120 years to the 1960s, and you have women just finding their voice. All those bra-b

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