Women Progress, But Still Seek Change

By Don Wade

Amy Howell understands the assumptions. Co-author a book with the title “Women in High Gear” and it is easy, she says, to imagine a book that is “anti-male.”

Attendees of The Daily News' Women & Business seminar network after the Thursday, Feb. 27, event. The seminar and panel highlighted the present and future of women in business. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

But as Howell delivered the keynote address at The Daily News Publishing Co.’s Women & Business Seminar, she made clear – as did others – that a woman succeeding in business is not about defeating men.

“I’m not a male-basher,” Howell said at the Thursday, Feb. 27, seminar. “I love men. I work with men. A lot of my clients are men.”

Howell is CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies. And she dreams of the day when there are more women CEOs out there. At the Fortune 500 level, only 4 percent of CEOs are women.

“We’ve got to change that,” she said.

After her speech, Howell and her fellow panelists – Robbin Hutton, a senior attorney with Jackson Lewis PC; Leslie Johnson, assistant director of Hutchison Leads at Hutchison School; and Linda Lauer, managing director at CBIZ Memphis – took questions from the audience.

Hutton said the legal field has changed greatly, noting that in the 1970s, it was only about 5 percent female. Now, she said, it is 33 percent female, and almost 50 percent of law school graduates are women. Numbers like that are encouraging at Hutchison.

“We focus on instilling confidence in the girls,” Johnson said.

There also was much discussion about the importance of steering young women into STEM fields – referring to science, technology, engineering and math. It’s in those fields, Howell said, where women’s pay is about 90 percent of men’s pay. Progress is also being made in the legal profession.

“We’re catching up,” Hutton said.

“I’m not a male-basher. I love men. I work with men. A lot of my clients are men.”

–Amy Howell
Co-author, “Women in High Gear”

One audience member asked the panel about a woman one day being president.

“I certainly think our country would be a lot better off if it was run by a woman,” Howell said, generating the loudest applause of the day from the female-majority audience. “Men aren’t doing so well.”

Johnson added, “At Hutchison, we tell (the girls) they can do anything they want to do, be anything they want to be.”

Flex time is becoming more common and acceptable for both men and women as they look to balance career and family, but Hutton said women who take time off from their careers are responsible for catching up with the technology when they return.

Howell’s hope is that more companies will realize the value of flexible schedules, saying she knows some CEOs and managers still aren’t comfortable with it because they don’t want to give up “control” over employees.

“If you’re productive,” Howell said, “what does it matter if you work 8 to 5?”

Lauer said seminars such as this can only further the cause of equal opportunity in the workplace, adding, “The fact it’s being publicized will lead to change.”

The Daily News’ Health Care Reform seminar – the second in the six-part 2014 Seminar Series – will be held April 3.