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Posted: May 01, 2013

Work in progress

Women look to strike a balance between C-suite and family

Gigi Sukin

Photography by Jeff Nelson

Take a gander at many a corporate photo wall and notice the number of women in the pictures. Amid the sea of navy blue blazers and patterned neck ties, where are the females? How many have risen the ranks to sit on executive boards?

True, females have emerged as viable players in business during the last few decades. But the man-to-woman ratio has barely budged in the last several years.

The percentage of women at or near the top has flat-lined in the U.S. Currently, women lead just more than 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 17 percent hold board seats, a mere 3 percent increase in the past 10 years.

“In general, women CEOs are still the minority,” said Stephanie Klein, CEO of Experience Factor, a full-service recruitment firm in Denver. “It’s still hard. I understand why a lot of women opt out. There are only so many hours in a day.”

How do we rectify the absence of women leaders in corporate America? This question seems to have dominated the headlines recently as powerful women like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer have made a splash in support of success for the fairer sex.

In pouring over the list of submissions for the ColoradoBiz Top 100 Woman-Owned Companies, a sizeable slice of the total fell into the category of staffing and recruitment services, including Protiro Inc., Innovar Group, Gibson Arnold & Associates, Experience Factor, TalenTrust LLC and more. 10 til 2 caters specifically to “mothers and others.” So it seemed sensible to absorb some knowledgeable perspective on where women stand as times, markets and standards continually change from the women who put us to work.

According to Sandberg, timing poses a particular problem, as the choice between the C-suite and starting a family commonly coincides, and often somewhat inconveniently so.

After sitting out of the professional scene for several years to tend to their families, Jill Ater and Jodi Olin recognized how few part-time professional opportunities there were for individuals interested in family-friendly work schedules.

The dearth of options to balance life and employment was staggering, says Ater. Surely individuals of similar age and familial structures could contribute their aptitude and skill sets to enhance employers’ productivity and businesses could benefit from talent on a cost-saving, part-time basis … if only given the chance.

Sounds like a win-win. But Ater and Olin found that such opportunities were few and far between in 2003.

With the insight to identify impending flexibility in labor dynamics, the two women established 10 til 2, the “first staffing company in the nation to emphasize long-term, part-time professional positions for mothers and others.”

“Employee wants and expectations are subtly steering the ship, however businesses are continuing to embrace the model and are becoming more aware of the positive effects to their bottom line,” says Ater.

She added that Sandberg’s “Lean In” campaign is in complete alignment with 10 til 2’s mission and staffing model.

“Women who are passionate about their work should not have to give it all up to raise a family; women who are passionate about being mothers should not have to shun their careers,” says Ater. “Passion at home and at work can be very symbiotic … so nurturing it not only benefits the individual, but can benefit industry and the community at large.”

Similarly, Kathleen Quinn Votaw, founder and CEO of TalenTrust, believes having it all is doable, and she’s been able to juggle full-time motherhood, marriage and her role as business owner simultaneously.

“I put my family first, but I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to sacrifice your life for your career,” said Quinn Votaw. She spoke of her ability to set achievable goals that helps her remain successful across the board – a skill she seems to be passing down to her son.

“My son made honor roll at his school,” Quinn Votaw said. “On the car ride home, he was dejected because he got silver instead of gold. I said, ‘Honey, I’m so proud of you,’ and he responded, ‘Yeah, but it wasn’t gold.’ I thought ‘What have I done?’ But I told him, ‘Make a goal to make gold honor roll. Either way, I’ll be proud of you.’”

Though her intersecting roles keep her exceedingly busy, Quinn Votaw makes it her business to put her son ahead of her business.

“There was a 30-minute celebration at his school for honor roll awardees and no matter what, I was going to be there,” Quinn Votaw said. “He’ll never forget that.”

President and CEO of Gibson Arnold & Associates, a national legal staffing and recruitment firm, Melinda Delmonico runs the company alongside husband, CFO and COO Scott Delmonico. He is an “absolute participant,” Melinda said, largely attributing her success to a collaborative effort. “My heart goes out to women who do it themselves.”

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Gigi Sukin is an Associate Editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at gsukin@cobizmag.com.

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Readers Respond

I think you have to pay for it. By Dan Whittle on 2013 05 15
where is the list? By Mariah DeGear on 2013 05 03
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