Diversity Woman Magazine

FALL 2016

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m Fa l l 2 0 1 6 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N 7 T his issue of Diversity Woman was inspired by Anna Bissell. You say you don't know who she is? Well, join the club—the club of female leaders who would be well served to consider Bissell a role model. From Anna Bissell to the Boardrooms Anna Bissell was the first woman CEO of a large corporation in the United States. Her husband, Melville, formed a company to sell carpet sweepers in the 1870s. When he died in 1889, Anna Bissell became CEO and for more than 40 years served first as president and then as chair of the board. Today Bissell is the number one floor-care company in the United States. Anna was a trailblazer—and not just because she was that lonely woman at the top. She had vision and nerve. She took the company international. She also intro- duced progressive labor relations policies, including workers' comp insurance and pension plans, well before these practices were widespread in industry. It was said of her that "she studied business the way other women of the times studied French." I believe that if Bissell dropped in for a visit today, she might be disappointed— disappointed that female leadership in Corporate America has not progressed further. Today, only 10 percent of those in the C-suite in the United States are women. And less than 20 percent of mem- bers of corporate boards are women. Anna is one of my inspirations. I learned about her while I was writing my dissertation for my doctorate in educa- tion. As I was struggling to identify spe- cifically which factors determine success, her story turned the key for me. It's commonly accepted that three factors facilitate an executive's ability to reach the upper echelons of management. e first is a history of successfully climb- ing the corporate ladder early in one's career. e second is the ability to develop and nurture relationships with mentors and sponsors. e third is organizational Publisher's Page > In my research, I discovered the missing link. Passion is so critical to success. change—processes and policies in Corpo- rate America that open the door for more female leadership. However, these factors must not be suf- ficient given the woeful representation of women in the C-suite. In my research—with an assist from Anna Bissell—I discovered the miss- ing link: passion. Anna did not take the company she inherited from her husband to unheard-of levels just by following the playbook of the day. She loved what she was doing, and she was always looking for ways to innovate and make her company better. Passion is so critical to success. In her case, she didn't even have the other factors to rely on: early success on the career ladder, mentors and sponsors, or an organization willing to develop female leaders. All she had was herself. In this issue of Diversity Woman—in fact, in every issue—we celebrate passion. Pas- sion is what drives Deborah Gillis, the CEO of Catalyst, featured on the cover of this issue. It's what drives Nawal Motawi, the subject of our CEO Woman department and the founder of Motawi Tileworks. She is a trailblazer both as a successful Arab American entrepreneur and as an innova- tor in the growing crafts movement . Passion is what drives me. It is truly a catalyst to advancement. is may be a good time for a passion check—are you passionate about your work and your life? Sheila Robinson Publisher, Diversity Woman

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