Businesswomen offer advice

December 20, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Three women who have succeeded in the corporate world offered advice on climbing the ladder without losing perspective at the Business Women's Network of Howard County meeting Wednesday.

The annual program, titled "Women Who Have Arrived," featured Anne W. Schnitzer, treasurer of The Ryland Group in Columbia, Sharon L. Akers, chief operating officer and director of development of Howard Hospital Foundation, and Malynda Hawes Madzel, owner of Custom Telemarketing Services Inc. in Columbia.

Ms. Schnitzer, 38, said conditions in corporate America are changing in favor of women. Businesses now value the "team approach" rather than the individual "shining star," and a woman working with a strong support staff will increase her chances of moving up, she said.

"The team approach is better for women," she said. "The communication skills and interpersonal skills fit us well. The '90s will be a good time for women," she predicted.

She advised women to become more involved in typically male bastions of corporate life -- networking and workplace politics.

Ms. Schnitzer was a medical secretary for eight years and earned an accounting degree from Loyola College in Baltimore in 1981. She was an accountant and assistant controller before joining Ryland, in 1987. She reports to the chief financial officer.

She said that she subscribes to the philosophy that women can have it all, but adds, "I'll probably die trying. When you're moving up, there are certain sacrifices and compromises you have to make."

Ms. Akers listed several practices that have helped make her successful: developing self-confidence to "create an aura"; accepting new challenges; establishing strong professional relationships and good friendships; standing behind decisions and valuing personal integrity.

Ms. Akers, 36, began her career as an assistant director of public relations for Providence Hospital in Washington. She accepted an opportunity to direct a fund-raising drive for the hospital although she lacked experience.

That effort led to bigger fund-raising and marketing jobs at a Montgomery County hospital and George Washington University.

In 1987, determined to break into the for-profit business world, she landed a job working 70 to 80 hours a week as director of marketing and public relations for Touche Ross, an accounting firm.

In 1988, she joined Mark Vogel Cos., a real estate development firm, as a vice president of special projects.

She knew nothing about accounting or real estate, she said, but was confident she could learn.

She left Vogel in 1990, deciding that she had been happiest "raising money where it had a direct impact on people's lives," and returned to the nonprofit sector with Howard Hospital Foundation, which raises money for improvements to Howard County General Hospital.

"Bigger and more prominent is not always better," she said.

Ms. Madzel, 48, credited her success in starting a telemarketing company that generates $500,000 in business annually to loyal employees, family and encouragement from support groups such as the Howard County Chamber of Commerce and the Business Women's Network.

She said she has been successful largely because she enjoys her work, and said money "can't be the main motivator." Having a written financial and marketing plan is a key to succeeding, she said.

While the average telemarketing employee stays in the job for several weeks, Ms. Madzel's employees have remained an average of more than a year, she said. A mother of two who spent 10 years at home raising her children, she said that one of her priorities as a boss is to empower women "to make a living, to grow and to work around schedules of children and aging parents."

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