The Game Changers

Meet 15 remarkable women who symbolize the new generation of power brokers from Wall Street to Hollywood. These women don’t follow – they lead and make their own rules, often inventing a whole new game. Find out why the execs in this elite group earn a spot on PINK and Forté Foundation’s 2007 list.

By Della De Lafuente

This isn’t your business-as-usual kind of list.

For starters, the powerful American women you’ve come to know as household names won’t be on the pages that follow (with a few exceptions). Instead, when you read the success stories of the leaders selected for this second-annual roster, you’ll see they’re a lot like us. They love what they do for a living. They gain confidence from their professional lives. And they are fully themselves when they stride into the office each day.

Sure – women who are passionate about their careers enjoy money, power and position, but among 2,400 professional women surveyed last fall at PINK Conferences across the country using technology provided by KPMG, about 49 percent say they still can’t always be their true selves as women in the workplace.

Today, success at work must include authenticity – the freedom to be who you are, the real deal, as a proven leader and as a woman – at the highest levels of business. Who’s got it? To find out, PINK joined forces again with the Forté Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the number of women business leaders. We also consulted with industry watchers including business school leaders (such as Emory University’s Andrea Hershatter), other journalists (such as CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and Liz Claman) and major corporations to identify women whose leadership and innovations have changed the way we work, think and live – all while creating a path for others into the executive pipeline and the corner office.

The reason for this list is simple: Corporate America needs to do better when it comes to grooming and courting women for top leadership positions. In 2006, Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo, Irene Rosenfeld at Kraft Foods and Patricia Woertz at Archer Daniels Midland became CEOs, increasing the number of women running the show at the top 500 U.S. companies to 10. Still, those numbers are hardly representative of the 69 million women in the U.S. workforce today.

So we say to executives everywhere: It’s time to shake things up and throw out those outdated playbooks. In these pages PINK and Forté give you America’s top women in business, the secrets behind their successful, rule-changing ways and 15 reasons why now is the time for a 21st century shift in corporate leadership. 

The Beauty Executive

Gina Boswell, 43, Senior VP and COO, Avon North America, New York City
Married for 14 years with two daughters, 11 and 8

Executive Education: MBA, Yale School of Management; and 2005 Henry Crown Fellowship by the Aspen Institute
Game Plan: This ex-CPA turned cosmetics chief is the woman behind the move to transform Avon’s entrepreneurial direct sales approach to the Web. Boswell led the charge to bring the multi-billion dollar company’s storied Skin So Soft and Anew brands to the In ter net while keeping its longtime woman-to-woman sales relationships modern and contem porary. The effort has also given Avon’s 500,000 reps in the U.S. the freedom to have their own state-of-the-art websites so they can serve their customers more conveniently but still in a personalized way. Her team goal? “Empowering wom en with an earnings opportunity that will help them achieve their goals,” she says.
Real Deal: “As a business leader and as a mother, my relationships with colleagues focus on the whole person. I’ll often connect with family photos in someone’s office, or I’ll avoid scheduling evening and weekend social events [with co-workers], freeing up those precious hours set aside for family and friends outside of work.”

The Advocate

Deborah Brooks, 47, president and CEO, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, New York City
Married for six years with twin daughters, age 2

Executive Education: MBA, Dartmouth; MSW, Northwestern University
Game Plan: She’s leading an organization that, if successful, may someday put itself out of business by finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease. In just six years this former Goldman Sachs VP merged her business background with her “ache” to do public service, launch ing the Michael J. Fox Foundation and subsequently awarding $90 million in Parkinson’s research grants in 2006. Today the foundation is second only to the U.S. government in funding re search to find a cure.
Real Deal: “I’m really comfortable act ing on my instincts. I’m not always right, but I’m willing to take my lumps too. I try to be pragmatic and candid. It’s pretty hard not to get a sense of who I am when I’m in the office. It wouldn’t be a fun place to work otherwise.”

The Futurist

Beth Comstock, 46, President of Digital Media and Market Development, NBC Universal, New York City
Married to her second husband for 16 years with two daughters, 21 and 15

Game Plan: As the former chief marketing officer at NBC Universal’s parent company, General Electric, Comstock has a track record for leading corporate in novation. She worked recently with GE CEO Jeff Immelt and division chiefs to identify more than 90 new projects that generated over $15 billion in revenue in the first years of the effort. Now Com stock has gone back to the future as she heads up the effort to forge the com pany’s 80 years of success in media and entertainment into the digital future, with the demand for NBC’s digital content expected to exceed $1 billion by 2009, according to company estimates.
Real Deal: “With success and with age comes confidence,” Comstock says. “It’s a kind of calm when you know you’ve done it, you’ve tried it and it worked. It’s about perspective.”

The Hit Maker

Lisa Ellis, 36, Executive VP, Sony Music Label Group, New York City
Single with two Yorkies

Game Plan: You’ve heard of the big-name recording artists that Ellis has worked with over the years: Beyonce, whom Ellis has known since the former Destiny’s Child star was signed at 7; Three 6 Mafia, the surprising 2006 Oscar winner for Best Original Song; and 2006 Grammy winner for Best New Artist, John Legend. But in the mus ic in dustry, Ellis – one of the youngest wom en execs in the business and one of a few women of color – is known for her remarkable 18-month turnaround of the Sony Urban Music Division she led for two years. How did she do it? “I’ve never followed anyone else’s game plan,” she says. “I write my own rules and follow my own path for what works.”
Real Deal: “Who I am as a person is there. But there are challenges to feeling like you can be yourself. Every day someone says something to me that they wouldn’t say to a man, and every day someone will do something to test me to see how far they can push me. So to get the message across, I have a pillow on the sofa in my office that says it for me. It reads: ‘Don’t test me. You will not win.’”

The Corporate Conscience

Karen Flanders, 43, Director of Corporate Responsibility, The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta
Married mother of three

Game Plan: As the soft-drink giant’s conscience, Flanders draws on her ex perience as a former conservationist for the World Wildlife Fund. She’s leading Coca-Cola’s global commitment to en vironmental stewardship by finding in novative ways to save the planet and preserve the world’s natural resources, such as fresh water. Her missions? Creating a first-of-its-kind freshwater map of the world; launching pilot projects to conserve Southeast Asia’s most important river, the Mekong, and protect high -altitude wetlands in the river’s headwaters on the Tibetan plateau; and designing “Water Savers,” innovative tools for increasing water use efficiency that are being tested by bottlers in the company’s Central America division, with water savings already reported. “I think I am successful if I contribute more than I re ceive, listen more than I talk and leave the world in better shape than when I arrived,” Flanders says.
Real Deal: “Authenticity for me comes in the form of being myself in all situations at work and at home, in not taking myself too seriously, laughing a lot, nurturing ideas, being there for others and building lasting relationships.”

The Chief Creative Officer·

Aerin Lauder, 36, Senior VP, Creative Director, Estéé Lauder, New York City
Married and mother to two sons, 7 and 5

Game Plan: As the company’s crea tive boss, Lauder’s mission is to maintain the heritage of the legendary cosmetics brand while moving forward the brand’s vision in everything from what consumers see in glossy magazines to their experience at the department store counter. She’s a hands-on innovator and shepherd of the brand’s visual message, in cluding packaging design, advertising and merchandising. Meanwhile, as the beauty products industry undergoes ma jor consolidation in the retail sector and mass market competitors try to reign in the Lauder empire’s high-end brands, she makes sure the quality of the brand and the legacy of her late grandmother are maintained. “Estée used to say that it’s her name on the bottle,” Lauder says, “so it has to be the best that it can be.”
Real Deal: “I definitely wish that I could be more of a mommy sometimes so that I wouldn’t need to take a red-eye flight to get home in time to take my sons to school. But balance is really difficult. I understand the woman who’s torn between so many different things and just wanting a little bit of something for herself.”

The Engineer

Duy-Loan Le, 44, Senior Fellow, Texas Instruments, Houston
Married for 24 years with two sons, 13 and 9

Executive Education: MBA, University of Houston
Game Plan: The next time you place a call on your mobile phone, thank an engineer named Duy-Loan Le (pronounced zee-long lee) when the call connects seamlessly on the other end. As the only woman engineer at TI to hold the coveted title of senior fellow (the equivalent of a senior VP), she’s the high-tech goddess behind a product you’ve probably never heard of that makes your cell phone call possible. An other technology breakthrough she worked on years ago, a type of dynamic random access memory, generated more than $1 billion in revenue.
Real Deal: “I came to America [from Vietnam] when I was 12 with just my mother and siblings, without money, without speaking the language and with out knowing where my next meal would come from. That gives you a different per spective and makes you appreciate life more. … I’ve never had a problem being myself. If I have to compromise myself to the point of losing my core values and forgetting my heritage, I have lost myself in the process.”

The Mega Retailer

Pernille Spiers-Lopez, 47, President, IKEA North America, Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
Married for 17 years and mother to a daughter,15, and son, 13

Game Plan: With the openings of IKEA’s 29th and 30th super-size stores in Round Rock, Texas, and Draper, Utah, Lopez is on a mission to make her company the leading home furnishings provider in every local market it serves – all while redefining affordable home furnishings and making it hip to design on a dime. “Home is where your life hap pens. It can be a place that is beau tiful, liveable and within your means,” says Lopez, who worked her way up the corporate ladder from the sales floor.
Real Deal: “You have to be authentic within yourself first so that others can respect that about you. I didn’t have this insight when I was 20 years old, and it has taken time for me to understand it,” says Lopez, who believes it’s im portant for leaders to be open with colleagues about their own mistakes and weaknesses. “Accepting our imperfections is what is real. … Personally, I know there isn’t such a thing as ‘balance’ be cause sometimes your job needs you and sometimes your children need you, so you need to stand up for whatever the right priorities are at the right time.”

The Innovator

Marissa Mayer, 31, VP of search products and user experience, Google, Mountain View, Calif.

Game Plan: As the company’s first woman engineer, Mayer has seen the future and is leading us there with in novative Web search products that have most of us wondering how we ever lived without them. “One way I do this is by hosting office hours for my team so that anyone can bring in an idea or a demon stration and brainstorm with me about it,” says Mayer, who specializes in artifi cial intelligence and has several patents pending for her work. So next time you Goo gle a co-worker, know that Mayer manages a team of talented engineers who bring you that capability. She’s also one of only two execs (the other is Goo gle co-Founder Larry Page) who has fi nal say on the content on Google’s home page, which often is based on the in formation that her teams decide you want to know.
Real Deal: “I can show enthusiasm about the things I’m interested in – like the latest phone, iPod or coding – without feeling strange or out of place. As a group, we’re very geeky but have a good dose of humor about it. My team and I laugh a lot at work, and the levity helps fuel us.”

The Kick-Starter

Tamara Rosenthal, 34, VP of Marketing, Lacoste USA, New York City
Recently married

Executive Education: MBA, Columbia University
Game Plan: Since joining Lacoste USA three years ago, Rosenthal and her team have worked alongside CEO Robert Siegel to breathe new life into the tired sportswear brand that seemingly disappeared from the retail market for more than a decade. The result? The success ful rollout of this brand makeover has made the once ubiquitous crocodile cool again, with everyone showing off their croc-emblazoned duds – from tennis hottie Andy Roddick, to actor Leonardo DiCaprio, to David Letterman’s son, who sported a Lacoste shirt for his first day of preschool.
Real Deal: “I’m pretty fearless, and I love the challenge of being tested.” Rosenthal is a marathon runner who has undertaken high-adventure outings like an all-women, eight-day backpacking trip in Montana (no phones, no Black Berrys and no showers). For bridal gifts, she requested gift certificates from Pat agonia and REI, then used them toward gear for her November honeymoon – hik ing in Argentina and Chile.

The Movie Executive

Stacey Snider, 45, CEO and Co-chairman, DreamWorks SKG, Burbank, Calif.
Married with two daughters, 8 and 10

Game Plan: Ready for a career shift, Snider, former chairman at Universal Pict ures, took the helm last year as the boss of Hollywood’s most powerful dir ector and DreamWorks co-founder, Stev en Spielberg, whom she had reportedly dreamed of working with since they teamed up on the Oscar-nominated film Munich. Snider is stepping up Dream Works’ production slate for 2007, green lighting and expediting projects for re lease such as the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, dir­ected by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp.
Real Deal: Snider, who resists being labeled a “female” executive, learned the business from some of its toughest male players, including Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer, Barry Diller and oth ers. “The truth is you learn from all of them, you’re honing your skills, borrow ing from them and becoming your own person,” she said just prior to her exit at Universal last February. “It’s been a good ride. When I face tough times, I can look back at two truths: that I survived and learned from all of those guys and that I’m a mother. If you do either reasonably well, you can do anything.”

The Credit Card Linchpin

Susan Sobbott, 42, President, OPEN from American Express, New York City
Mother of two children, 3 and 1, with her boyfriend, a graphic artist

Executive Education: MBA, University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business
Game Plan: Her business unit is the nation’s largest issuer of credit and charge cards for small business, a key growth area for OPEN from American Express that represents half the spending of all small business cards nationwide. But why stop there? Says Sob bott: “We want to be the currency for small business. … Our customers represent more than half of new U.S. jobs and contribute more than half the GDP.”
Real Deal: “If you can’t bring your whole self to what you do, you’re leaving something on the table – your competitive edge.” Sobbott describes au then ticity as “an essential ingredient for true leadership. It’s about having the courage to know what makes you comfortable in your own skin and not running from it, but instead flaunting it. People can smell when you’re authentic, and they trust you completely when you are – and that’s how you lead, with that heartfelt trust.”

The Television Titan

Nina Tassler, 49, president, CBS Entertainment, Los Angeles
Married for 22 years with two children, 8 and 18

Game Plan: Considered television’s most powerful Latina, Tassler has put some of the luster back in the Tiffany network, directing its dominance in pro gramming and in program development for comedies, dramas, reality series, specials, movies and miniseries. Tas sler and her team have raised the bar for hit network programs, developing many of the most critically ac claim ed and commercially successful programs on TV to day – many of them written, produced and managed by wom en. So thank Tassler the next time you tune in to CSI franchise shows and top-rated comedies Two and a Half Men and The New Adventures of Old Chris tine. Her strategy? “We’re throwing out the rulebook and taking some bold, creative risks,” says Tassler, borrowing a phrase from Katharine Hepburn: “If you obey all of the rules, you miss all of the fun!”
Real Deal: “I’ve never felt that I had to be anybody other than myself at work. Maybe that comes from how I was raised,” says Tassler, the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a European-Jewish father. “Success is defined by your ability to be yourself. I’m fortunate because 18 years ago I met [current CBS Chairman] Leslie Moonves, who was really supportive of what I could bring to the job.”

The Hotelier

Lindsey Ueberroth, 31, Managing Director, Preferred Boutique, Newport Beach, Calif.

Game Plan: A world traveler since she was a child, Ueberroth has visited 70 countries and traveled to every continent except Antarctica. She often draws on that adventurous side to guide her in business decisions as leader of Pre ferred Boutique, the newest brand within the Preferred Hotel Group. Under Ue berroth’s direction, the Preferred Bou tique portfolio has grown in just over a year to 78 properties worldwide, in clud ing premier independent hotels and re sorts such as Fifteen Beacon in Bos ton, Dylan in Ireland and The Lodge at Sea Island, Ga.
Real Deal: “Depending on where you are in the world and in certain cultures, being young and being female means that it’s still a challenge for me to be myself as an international bus iness wom an. But it works for me because people recognize that being young means I’m innovative and more flexible because I’m not set in my ways. I’m passionate and fearless about what I do.”

The Hospitality Boss

Robin Uler, 51, Senior VP, Lodging, Food and Beverage, Spas and Retail Services, Marriott International, Washington, D.C.

Game Plan: Uler is revitalizing 600 Marriott International hotels and re sorts among its 2,700 worldwide properties one placemat and martini glass at a time. She and her team are creating destination restaurants designed to become hot spots for guests and local residents. They also are recruiting in dus try innovators, such as celebrity chefs Michael Mina and Todd English, to serve up fresh ideas. This year Uler and com pany will launch as many as 70 re de signed restaurants and lobbies to serve as “energy zones,” or gathering places, intended to make guests want to linger and mingle.
Real Deal: Eschewing the hotel chain’s corporate-issued office furniture, Uler instead purchased and decorated her office with her own sleek, contemporary furnishings. Her inspiration in bus iness? “People who come up with really cool ideas and make you think, ‘I wish I’d thought of that.’”

This article originally appeared in the Febuary.March 2007 issue of PINK Magazine.

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