Erma Bombeck Talks Women's History
The Technology Diet

Fortune Cites Top Women CEOs -
I have questions

"In a historic year, strong women take charge at PepsiCo, ADM and Kraft."

So, says the cover of October's issue of Fortune magazine, underneath a pic of the three women mentioned. The article is a yearly look at the "50 Most Powerful Women in Business," something Fortune started writing about in 1998. As someone who has a vested interest in women in business, I like to read about teh 50 Most Powerful, as much as the next guy, or gal. While reading - I started fuming. Just a bit. And, I came up with some questions for some of these so-called "powerful" women. There is little chance my questions will be answered, but...this is my blog, so...I'll ask them anyway. You can chime in and ask some of your own, if you've a mind to.

First, for Fortune - you cite your Most Powerful Women Summit in your mag, as if it's the be-all and end-all of events. I even found mention of it at the link above. But, what is it, really? To those of us in the trenches - you know, the businesses that fuel the economy - the small and mid-size businesses that sell the products and services the big girls buy - this is just lip-service.

As far as I can see, you're trying to play nice in an area that is growing exponentially - the small business arena for women. But, the real small business owners aren't there. Certainly, not the ones I know - and I know a lot of them. I wanted to participate but... I can't even get anyone at Fortune to answer my emails. Hundreds, no, thousands, of women like me would LOVE to converge on Las Vegas or Houston or NYC to attend a business conference that addresses OUR issues. We aren't doing it because - you aren't including us in your plans or vision. You're into this global thing - which is good - but, you're ignoring a vast resource right here at home.

Let's move on to the women themselves - those "strong," stalwart ladies in the executive seats at these big companies. I have a few questions for them, too.

I'm only going to ask questions of a few of the ladies. In the interest of time and space.

As I look over the happy, smiling faces of all these women cited in Fortune's October issue...I'm curious about something - Did you (all of you) eagerly block off time to do the photo shoot and interviews? What did you NOT do that day - so you could be showcased in Fortune magazine? Maybe you cancelled the meeting you were going to have with me - Ms. little business owner - because I am less important than getting your picture in Fortune? Maybe you were smart and didn't have anything scheduled - because being in Fortune is far more important than - well, doing business.

Okay, enough of that. That's my jealousy showing, I admit it. I give you all kudos for your accomplishments, one of which is being featured in Fortune.

On to my real questions:

Anne Mulcahy - You're ranked #2! That's pretty impressive. Your blurb says, "Thanks to the iGen printer, which cost more than $1 billion to develop..." Wow! A billion dollars on development of a machine I am very familiar with in my other life, over at my publishing company. Impressive. Here's the thing - Xerox is a Rochester, NY company with a woman at the helm. Rochester is also home to the Susan B. Anthony House. When was the last time YOU, Anne, visited the Susan B. Anthony House? Why isn't Xerox the #1 supporter of the Susan B. Anthony House? You can spend a billion dollars on a machine that improves printing - which is what you're all about, I understand that - but you can't give the Susan B. Anthony House a mere $15,000 to sponsor their February luncheon, the only fund raiser they have all year? What's up with that? You, Anne, wouldn't be where you are without women like Susan B. having trudged the road ahead of you - and paved the way for your success. Shame on you for ignoring this vitally important historical landmark. Shame! Shame!

Andrea Jung - (Avon) According to the blurb beneath your name, "Key markets like the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are struggling." I find that sad, because Avon was always my make-up of choice, and I think your company is a fine one. Further on in the article, you state that you want to take advantage of the Internet more. A worthy goal. Well, I'm here to help. In fact, I bet hundreds of girl-bloggers would help. Are you going to tap into our potential - or are you going to hire some NY company that purports to understand social media? Trust me - they don't. You're better off connecting with US - the women in the blogosphere who have the experience and inside knowledge to help you. Here's my email address - send me a note. I'd be happy to talk social networking with you. Or, you can waste a million bucks on some fancy advertising firm that will have to connect with me (and my friends) anyway. Your choice.

Susan Arnold - (Procter & Gamble) According to your blurb, "Down the line, she's a contender for an even bigger job: CEO." Hmmm...are you sure you want THAT job? Well, anyway, that's neither here nor there. My question to you is this: Where's your blog? Or, a blog for P&G? Ask Julia doesn't do it. Sorry. You don't have to personally have a blog - although it would be nice. But the Health and Beauty industry is so huge online, I fail to understand why P&G doesn't have a blog to connect with the ladies. WE are the health and beauty industry. If P&G had a blog,'d save money on R&D cause - we'd do a lot of that work for you, in real-time, online, for all the world to see. It's so disappointing not to see a company like P&G, with a strong, capable woman in charge, not utilizing social media and social networking. What's holding you back? You can talk to me.

Cathleen Black - (Hearst Magazines) Cathleen, I see on your website that you recently acquired, a girlie kinda site that seems to serve little purpose beyond titillation. Maybe that's just me. I'm a baby boomer and isn't aimed at me. But then - it is aimed at my kids. I don't know what they think of it cause...they don't know about it. To your credit, I did click into All About You and I found a blog! That was neat. The blog is written by Bernadette - a twenty-something, by the looks of her. I like her style. She's chatty and funny and has a great smile. So, here's my question to you: Where are you going in 2007? Your 2005 report says, "We don't want to just anticipate the future of interactive media; we want to help create it." Hello? What are you creating and for whom? Are you connecting with women online, via blogs and forums and wikis? Are you really ready to listen? To real women? To women over 35? Or, don't we count?? Do you have somewhere on your site where regular folks can post suggestions? How do we connect with YOU - yes, YOU - to share our thoughts? That's interactive media. I don't see it happening. Why not?

Okay, last question - for the biggest and most powerful woman in America today, although she is not the #1 on Fortune's list - Oprah. Oprah, you're the epitome of success for many women. We look to you for inspiration, advice, and information. Your show continues to outrate every other show on TV (well, to the extent that it commands a large viewing audience in its time slot). You're a prime example of a woman giving back - to society, to the global economy, and to children. But - there is a whisper of dissatisfaction following you. Are you aware of it? We ladies in the back row are beginning to think that you don't want to listen to us. We think you're getting out of reach, out of touch, and a little deaf to our pleas. You have a website, a magazine, a TV show - it's Oprah, Oprah, Oprah. And, everything you touch turns to gold - just look at Dr. Phil and Rachel Ray. How about this - how about starting a department that just looks at average folks and their work and identifies the diamond in the rough? How about putting together a panel of average gals - of varying ages - some start-ups, some established small businesses, some second or third generation - to travel across America and discover innovative women in their element? The purpose, of course, is to showcase American women - who are NOT in the Fortune 500 (yet).

It's just that - by asking us to write to you or email you or stay awake nights trying to figure out how to get to Gail or someone else on your staff - you're missing out on some fabulous gems. And, a lot of talented women may fall by the wayside - out of despair or desperation. I bet you know what that feels like. It's not pleasant.

Well, that's the end of my questioning. I could ask more - I just don't think there's time, or space.

The women cited as "strong" in this year's 50 Most Powerful are no stronger, no smarter, no more talented than the hundreds of the women who read Fortune magazine every month. They're just more visible.


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Lena L. West

Whoooooo Ladies! Don't you just LOVE it when Yvonne gets on a roll?!

You tell 'em, Yvonne! I applaud you for not taking Fortune's pat on the back as "the last word". You looked at this list strategically and critically - AND you did some research. I plan to do the same with similar sorts of lists.

It's all well and fine if the praise given to these women is deserved but when these types of lists slip into cronyism, that's where they meet my mental, physical and virtual round file.

Thanks for teaching me something new!


Dianna Leach

Yvonne DiVita 2008!!!!!

Yvonne DiVita

Thanks, Steve. Yes, one or more should respond, don't you think? It's unlikely, I know. But, I said my piece. That's what counts.

Steve Sherlock

Way to go Yvvone! I wonder if one or more will answer? They should of course, but you know...

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