If you heard a collective sigh emanating from the Inner Harbor last Thursday, it was probably from a group of women accountants "visioning" a job in which they don't have to spend six days a week, 12 hours a day at the office in order to get promoted.
Most of the women partners of Coopers & Lybrand -- the nation's fifth-largest accounting firm -- gathered at the Hyatt last week to figure out how they could maintain some balance in their lives without hurting their work or their careers.
It was the first meeting ever for Coopers' women partners, who make up a tiny percentage of the traditionally male number-crunching industry.
Judy Rosenblum, who as a vice chairman is one of the highest-ranked women at Coopers, said her company has promoted slightly more women than its competitors -- 7 percent of its partners are female, compared to an industry average of about 5 percent.
But, like every major accounting firm, more of its female associates quit than do male. And that costs the company money.
"We are losing very highly qualified people. It is a business issue," she said.
Last week's meeting was a first step in persuading managers to allow male and female workers alike a little more flexibility.
At a dinner to which some of the top men at the company were invited, the company's chairman, Eugene M. Freedman, announced that he would create a council to decide whether to let accountants work at home sometimes or to create a part-time partner track.
That's great for Coopers employees, says Leslie Smith, director of the National Association of Female Executives, but it's long overdue. Programs like flextime are already common in many other industries, she said.
Ms. Smith also suggested women take a hard look at options such as part-time partnerships to make sure they are not being routed into second-class jobs.
Dinner cruise waiters picket over gratuities
Should waiters get to keep the gratuities customers pay?
Some disgruntled waiters from the Bay Lady and the Lady Baltimore picketed outside the dinner cruise ships' Inner Harbor berth recently, complaining that they get only a fraction of the $2.20 gratuity the company tacks on to some cruise tickets.
The picketers say they're hoping to persuade the ships' owners, Beverly and Larry Stappler, who also own Overlea Caterers, to let the waiters keep all of it.
The waiters, who set and bus the tables, get $1 per patron, or about $45 for each five-hour cruise, complained Monica Gudaitis, who has worked as a waitress on the cruise ships for about five years.
"This is not an easy job," she says of serving a dinner while plying the Chesapeake.
But Kitty Bona, manager of the cruise ships, says that the gratuity does go to the ships' workers. "It also pays deckhands, bartenders, galley staff and everything else," she said.
And the waiters and waitresses, Ms. Bona says, average nearly $10 an hour.
Most of the picketers, she said, were also supporters of a failed unionizing drive. In a vote this spring, Harbor Cruise employees narrowly rejected a bid to be represented by Local 37 of the Operating Engineers Union.