Most of you reading these pages are men. That’s what our surveys tell us. Many of you, and even our women readers, may feel the tiniest bit uncomfortable or even roll your eyes at discussions of women in business. After all, professional women have made great advances in the past few decades. It’s easy to forget that, not too long ago, women were a distinct minority in professional circles, ignored or left out of the boys club and, mercifully, the risqué joke-telling, or, worse, bar or strip club invitations at business events. Those were the days when maternity leave, no matter how brief and unsatisfying, could mean the beginning of slow career death.
Since then, the workplace has become a lot more human. However, the business world still prefers the traditional competitive male spirit. In the process, it often neglects other qualities essential for success, which are so often associated with women: nurturing and consensus building, for instance.
The most outstanding people in any business, male or female, manage to combine the yin and the yang, and balance the “male” need for visible achievement with the “female” need to inspire, engage and care for others.
Consider Mary Crowley, whose mission remains at the heart of so many innovations that are driving biopharmaceutical development forward. Her grandson, David Shanahan, now President of the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Centers, spoke about her at the PDA Annual Meeting in April.
Another example, operating on a smaller stage, is Julie Cappelletti-Lange, co-owner of our company, Putman Media. Beautiful and full of life, she passed away last month at the age of 50, from a rare condition that results from an adverse reaction to an antibiotic. The publishing world is diminished by her absence.
Both were single mothers, a role that few seek. During the Great Depression, Ms. Crowley made the bold decision to leave her improvident husband and move from Missouri to Texas, where the oil business was growing. Harnessing male chutzpah and female endurance, she studied, worked and raised two children alone, eventually starting an interior design firm that became a multimillion dollar business.
Crowley had been diagnosed with cancer in the late 1960s and hospitalized. She recovered, but the cancer came back in the 1980s. Noting that therapies and treatments had advanced so little in over 20 years, Crowley decided to fund research into innovative cures. Today, as Shanahan reported, the center that bears her name touches the lives of over 4,000 patients. For 20 years, it has been at the forefront of personalized medicine and biopharmaceutical R&D, and over 300 clinical trials of vaccines and other therapies.
What makes it tick are flexible, scalable manufacturing technologies, developed by Gradalis, a company that Shanahan founded. Work done with the Crowley Center has been instrumental in shaping the flexible biopharmaceutical plant as we now know it.
In magazine publishing, Julie Lange ran many of Putman’s operations, while raising children alone. Trained in psychology, she showed a level of empathy that few possess. During tough economic times, when our much larger competitors were doing this, she refused to cut travel budgets, reasoning that editors needed to get out there, learn and report. She even adopted a family from the inner city, and, without patronizing, made them part of her extended family. Julie made each employee feel that way too. Any innovations that Putman magazines might have made in print or on the Web were, in some way, inspired by her.
So when anyone hints that empathy and nurturing are best left to the female of the species, and out of the workplace, consider those who transcend limits and stereotypes. It’s the combination of yin and yang that moves the world forward. Who knows what it might inspire in your organization?