Tales from the front lines

Tales from the front lines - APRIL 11, 2011 Tales From the...

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APRIL 11, 2011 Tales From the Front Lines Mellody Hobson, Julie Louise Gerberding, Marissa Mayer and Debra L. Lee on how they did what they did The challenges women face often cut across industries. But some are also unique to specific sectors. Women who have risen high in four industries—finance, health, technology and media—sought to illuminate these issues by recounting their own experiences and assessing how women generally have fared in their fields. Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments in Chicago, spoke with The Wall Street Journal's Rebecca Blumenstein. Julie Louise Gerberding, president of Merck & Co.'s Merck Vaccines unit, sat down with the Journal's Laura Landro. Marissa Mayer, Google Inc.'s vice president, consumer products, talked with the Journal's Julia Angwin. And Debra L. Lee, chairman and chief executive of BET Networks, a unit of Viacom Inc., spoke with the Journal's Alessandra Galloni. Here are edited excerpts of their conversations. A Broader Perspective MS. BLUMENSTEIN: Mellody, you played such a major role in building Ariel up. Could you describe how you did it? There's a stereotype that women don't know how to manage money and don't know how to take risks. MS. HOBSON: I was an intern at my firm. I fell in love with the investment business, and from the very beginning I knew this was where I was going to work for my career. So I could think very long term about how to build our company. That ultimately allowed us to accomplish quite a bit. MS. BLUMENSTEIN: Did you have more freedom as a woman, less of a hindrance from some of the structural barriers that might have come up at a big company? MS. HOBSON: There's no question about it. My business partner, John Rogers, who started our firm, was very used to strong women. His mother was the first black woman to graduate from the University of Chicago law school, in the '40s. So John was always very happy for me to be out and about representing Ariel. MS. BLUMENSTEIN: You have very strong ties politically in Chicago. You appear on "Good Morning America. " You're very involved in your community and things outside of work. Could you talk about the importance of reaching out and almost building your own persona? MS. HOBSON: With some women, even in my own firm, you have to sort of push them out because they think, "I've got to do a really good job, which means staying very focused." I learned very early that I can do a better job if I have other stimuli that give me a broader perspective. And what people with that focused mind-set don't realize is how important those outside relationships can be. I helped Bill Bradley when he ran for president in 2000. I worked as hard on his campaign as I worked on my job every single day. Obviously, we were unsuccessful. But then one day, Bill calls and says, "I'm on the board of Starbucks, and I'm taking you with me." He recommended me to Howard Schultz. I never imagined that was possible—I'm like this pipsqueak in Chicago. So I get to be in the room with one of the most successful brands in the world, with a front-row seat to all
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Tales from the front lines - APRIL 11, 2011 Tales From the...

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