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Reports from the front lines: five women business leaders discuss challenges and opportunities.

The Detroiter asked five diverse business leaders from the Detroit Region to share their thoughts and advice on leadership from their perspective as women. Here's a summary of their responses:

Do women in business face special or different challenges as emerging leaders?

Crosby: Unfortunately, the remnants of sexism still linger and oftentimes women feel they have to work harder to prove themselves. Additionally, women typically take on the dual role of business leaders and managers of hearth and home. Today's businesswoman must often make difficult choices. The commitment required to become a successful leader is often in direct conflict with the commitment required to raise successful children.

Kerr: Women in business have always faced special challenges. Choosing to enter the business arena itself is a special challenge. But in today's business, infiltrating the power circle is top on the list of challenges for our emerging leaders. Once you do enter this circle of power, staying there requires a great deal of sacrifice. High on the list of challenges is determining if you "measure up" in your field or industry of choice. And finally, do you have what it takes: "staying power."

Moore: Being in business and being successful at business is difficult for anyone. It requires hard work, passion and dedication. Yet, it is even harder when a businessperson is female. As females we have to face all of the common aspects of business, as well as the disheartening obstacles that come our way because of our gender. We are scrutinized, not taken seriously and harassed because of our sex. These are just some of the challenges facing women in business today.

Moragne: Yes, especially in certain male-dominated industries. However, women have made great strides in the last decade, but there is still much ground to be covered. When we have fair numbers of women represented in executive positions (VP and above) in corporate America then we can say great job. Until then we have to keep pushing.

Shaw: Women lead differently than men. Studies show that women are consensus builders, collaborators, negotiators and community builders--attributes that are imperative, particularly in the franchising industry. Unfortunately, these traits are often mistaken as weaknesses by the business community. To overcome the perception of being weak, and to be able to perform competitively in today's market-place, women must have a strong, confident and well-defined plan of what must be accomplished.

What advice would you give women business leaders to help them face these leadership challenges?

Crosby: Life is like juggling balls made of various materials: glass, metal, rubber, etc. If you're going to drop a ball, make sure it's not one that will shatter. In other words, identify your priorities, find some balance and protect the most precious things. If you've got too many balls in the air, don't worry about dropping the rubber one: it'll bounce back; and the metal one might hit with a thud, but you can pick it up later. It's the glass balls in our lives--our families, our health, and our spirit--that we must protect at all costs.

Kerr: You must re-invent yourself to stay on top. When mining though radical changes in the health-care industry I am faced with bringing in new business opportunities. When I was faced with dwindling revenue sources. I began to pursue larger contracts more aggressively. I nurtured one project and client for three years, investing thousands of hours of my personal time to achieve a successful outcome. During the process I re-invented my business, started a second entity and opened a whole new market of services.

Moore: Every day I am faced with the challenge of "proving" myself because of my gender. Companies I seek out for business question my ability to run a business and question the size of my company. I face these challenges by going beyond their expectations. The best advice I can give to other businesswomen is to know and understand the challenges you face. Then work hard to rise above them.

Moragne: My advice is to maintain your position and continue to fight. Women, by nature, possess certain leadership qualities that men don't. The key is to hold on to that which you know is right and never compromise your position.

Shaw: Today's female leader must surround herself with great people by recruiting a team that fulfills her business's needs and creates a culture in which her management style will flourish. In his excellent book "From Good to Great," author Jim Collins says it best: "You must have the right people on the bus and the right people in the right seats." One last thing: Don't beat yourself up too much over a mistake. Everyone makes them. The key is to swiftly make a necessary change and move on.

For a complete transcript of our panelists' comments, visit the Detroiter Online at and go to: "Women in leadership panel."

RELATED ARTICLE: Our panelists

Mary L. Crosby, president and CEO

FruitfulWorks Inc.



Jennifer Kerr, president

Diversified Health Care Management

Consultants Inc.



Brenda Moore, president

Perk & Brew Corp.

Ann Arbor


Brenda J. Moragne, managing partner, Sales and Marketing, Moragne Mitchell

Multicultural Media



JoAnne Shaw, president and CEO

The Coffee Beanery



Leadership Online

Visit the Detroiter Online at for this additional article on leadership:

Enhancing leadership performance through skills-based training By Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes, Ed.D, L.P.C., president, T.A.H. Performance Consultants Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Detroit Regional Chamber
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Leadership
Article Type:Panel Discussion
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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