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Leading Business Women program the talk of the town

As I See It

Recently, MBJ initiated the nominating process for selection of the 50 Leading Business Women in Mississippi for 1998. This is our second year to produce this program, and we are pleased to be instrumental in recognizing women in major leadership roles in our state.

Apparently, not everyone is excited about this program. I understand our program and our motives in sponsoring the program were called into question on a Jackson talk radio show recently by Andy Taggart. I confess to relying on hearsay; I didn`t actually hear the broadcast. Nonetheless, the “alleged” controversy provides me an opportunity to explain the program and answer the challenges raised by Mr. Taggart.

The controversy is whether it is necessary, prudent or advisable to recognize 50 women business leaders. Why not just recognize 50 leading business people? Why single women out for recognition? Is this just a plot to sell advertising?

We have several motives in sponsoring the program. First and foremost, any reasonably intelligent person realizes that a female rising to a position of leadership has had a harder “row to hoe” than any equally qualified and motivated male. That is reason enough for the project.

Additionally, there is an economic need to attract women into the work force and motivate them to excel to the heights of their abilities. Demographers study population trends and make projections about the future. They are in general agreement that we are facing a shortage of workers in the reasonably near future. There simply will not be enough people in the work force to get all the work done. Shortages are expected at all levels from worker to executive. Let`s assume for a moment that the professional population soothsayers are right and the employment picture is troublesome.

It is common knowledge that there are many potential employees who are simply not in the work force. Many of these potential workers are women.

If the supposition about impending worker shortage is correct, then encouraging some non-workers to leave the sidelines and join the show would seem desirable. If it is true that a substantial number of the non-workers are female then it seems plausible that encouraging that group to sally forth is desirable.

How you gonna do it? You can physically overpower them, bind them hand and foot and haul them to the factory floor. To say the least, this is unacceptable and not in accordance with the latest treatises on empowerment, not to mention illegal. Well, then how you gonna do it?

My parents were proponents of the view that you can lead a goose to water, but you can`t make him (her?) drink. Alas, you must convince the goose that drinking is a good thing.

Our program seeks to create recognition of the contribution of women in leadership roles. The enthusiastic response we have received is comforting. Though we believe that the ceremony and seminars to be held on Oct. 2 at the grand finale is certainly worthwhile, we also think the process of discussion in hundreds of workplaces around the state is also important.

You see, we think that when women see other women being recognized, it encourages them to participate in the system. It holds out the hope that if these can be successful, maybe I can too. If it works, we will have created some thirst in the goose.

I`m sure some say this is a liberal thing, closely akin to affirmative action and quotas. Since I have been characterized as both a “bleeding heart” liberal and a “to-the-right-of-Attila-the-Hun” conservative, I have come to believe that my views defy labeling. I kinda like that and doubt that I will ever conform to either camp.

Would we like to sell advertising around this program? You bet we would. Just like Andy Taggart sells advertising to support his show by stirring up controversy on the air. Because without advertising support, Andy and I would be plowing a mule instead of making our living writing and talking.

Andy, the next time you want to take me to task on the air, let me know ahead of time and I will be glad to respond. Otherwise, my radio listening time is frequently interrupted during the day by WORK.

Thought for the Moment

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.

– Richard Lederer, pun writer

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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