Rising to the Top

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Executive women must deal with many challenges on the job, at home and in their communities. Balancing those responsibilities and commitments—and finding some free time to relax and recharge—is a difficult task. Still, many women leaders have found success.

For the ninth year, Columbus C.E.O. sat down with eight Central Ohio businesswomen who have mastered the high-wire act. From the director of public policy and community relations for Local Matters to the president and CEO of Leaderpromos, each shared her inspiration and goals while providing insights into success for future women leaders.

Although women make up 46.7 percent of the U.S. labor force and 51.5 percent of management, professional and related occupations, at Fortune 500 companies women comprise just 14.1 percent of executive officers, 16.1 percent of board seats, 7.5 percent of top earners and 3.4 percent of CEOs, according to Catalyst, a New York-based nonprofit research group.

Columbus isn’t home to any female-run Fortune 500 companies, but all eight executive women say it is a supportive city for women in business. “The women here are very approachable, and if you want to be able to get to know someone or reach out to someone, your phone call gets returned,” says Janelle Simmons, director of community relations and philanthropy for Limited Brands.

“There are a lot of resources. In my personal experience, I’ve always met women in this community that are incredibly supportive. I’ve always met incredibly creative women, women with drive, just amazing women. Could we do more? Absolutely. Do we have a lot to work with? Absolutely,” says Noreen Warnock, director of public policy and community relations for Local Matters.

Local organizations singled out as good resources for women in business include YWCA Columbus and its Gen Y program, Women for Economic and Leadership Development, Dames Bond, the Hispanic Chamber of Columbus’s Latina Mentoring Academy and the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio.

“There could be more resources, but I also think there could be a venue or a method of being able to let women know where the resources are. I have a feeling that there are resources out there, but there is no one go-to place to find where those resources are,” Simmons says.

Other groups, such as the Ohio Business Leadership Network, can also benefit women, says Karen Fasheun, Midwest region manager for diversity, inclusion and development for Time Warner Cable. “It’s important not to just look at traditional organizations that have women, though it’s important that we have those, but we also need to take our skills and talents and employ those in the spaces that don’t necessarily have women at the core,” Fasheun says.

Michelle Davey is an editorial assistant and Jennifer Wray is a staff writer for Columbus C.E.O.

Reprinted from the May 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.