On Oct. 6, more than 1,000 San Diegans poured into the Town and Country Convention Center’s ballroom to celebrate the San Diego Business Journal’s sixth annual Women Who Mean Business Awards program.
Thirty-eight Best in Industry award winners were selected from a field of 237 finalists. They listened intently as Cynthia Trudell, president and CEO of the Saturn automobile company, delivered the keynote address. Cynthia knows a little about women who really mean business. She started 25 years ago with General Motors as an automobile engineer and has risen to the highest position (the only female in the nation to do so) in Saturn , a company that didn’t even exist 25 years ago when she started with GM.
Her remarks illustrated the dynamic changes that have occurred in the last century to allow women to follow their dreams. A brief synopsis of her remarks follows:
“I think the title for these awards , ‘Women Who Mean Business’ , is very appropriate, because these are women who recognize that opportunity often arrives in the disguise of hard work. They are the kind of people Margaret Thatcher had in mind, when she once said, ‘If you want anything done, ask a woman.’
“For our honorees, it all started with each having her own dream. But it didn’t stop there, because these women had the courage needed to transform a dream into reality.
“We all know people who have the dream part of this equation down pat. They talk about what they’d like to do in life, but they don’t get there because they never dare to risk failure.
“Only those who dare to try will ever accomplish anything significant. You, in this room, had the courage to follow your dreams. You took the risk.
“Today, more women than ever are showing the courage to make it happen in business. If it all starts with having a dream, we don’t have to look back many years to recall when women were discouraged from even having a dream.
In the 19th century, the idea that ‘all men and women are created equal’ was a radical notion. Until 1920, a woman couldn’t legally cast a ballot in a United States presidential election.
“Even looking back a single generation ago, it was still legal to pay a woman less for her time and talent solely because of her gender. And a woman could not get credit on her own.
“Today, we can still cite examples where women are undervalued. Sometimes it seemed that women’s drive for equal opportunity progressed only inches at a time. But as the 20th century rapidly grows to a close, we can measure women’s progress in miles , and we can look forward to the promise of even greater strides in the new millennium.
“Women’s lives have been transformed from virtually every perspective , as mothers, as workers, as consumers and as leaders. Perhaps most significantly , it is no longer unusual for girls to dream of greatness. They can dream of traveling in space running for president or playing for the World Cup in soccer or running a Fortune 500 company.
“In the U.S. today, more than 70 percent of women, ages 25 to 64, are active in the labor force. Women own more one-third of all business , and these businesses employ more than 18.5 million people and generate close to $2.3 trillion in sales.
“The growth of women-owned businesses is far outpacing overall business growth. In fact, women start up an average of 1,400 new businesses each day!
“Clearly, these ‘Women Who Mean Business’ have achieved notable accomplishments. But how have they managed to succeed, when others never get past talking about their ambitions? In other words, what separates the doers from the dreamers?
“I have spent a lot of time reflecting of this question. And I believe there are two critical factors for success: The first is the support and encouragement provided by others. And the second element is the motivation that must come from within. I would like to take a few minutes to talk from a very personal standpoint about how each of these factors contributes to success.
“I’m sure that most of you who are being honored at this program are thankful to someone who helped you succeed. The help you got might have come from a family member, a friend, a professor or a mentor. Perhaps someone who is here with you tonight provided important support along the way.
“Early in my own career, after I finished my doctorate in physical science, I found myself working in a laboratory. But I became very unhappy and dissatisfied. A lot of people talk to themselves. But I was not only talking to myself, I was answering myself, too!
“I was not being true to myself, and as a result I was fighting the energy. But I had a vision of something else, a vision where I was working with other people, and I didn’t have lab coat on. It was a vision of working in management, although I didn’t fully understand it at the time.
“I just had to ask myself, did I have the guts to leave the laboratory and make a change? I literally went into a new career, starting at the bottom as a process engineer in an automotive plant.
“Some of my friends asked, ‘Are you nuts?’ But it couldn’t be about what anyone else thought. It was about whether I was being true to myself. When I made the change, the energy began to feel healthy again, and I started once more to feel really good about myself.
“Being true to myself has continued to apply as I’ve gone through my career. Even though I benefited from mentors, I’ve always remembered that it was my responsibility to figure out what I needed to do strategically.”
From those sound bites you can get an idea why Cynthia is a special person and why perhaps only a unique car company like Saturn would see the leadership in Cynthia and realize that she is just what the doctor ordered to take Saturn to the next millennium.
I would like to take a moment to thank our great sponsors for all their support. They are:
Manpower Temporary Services of San Diego; Qualcomm Inc.; Harris Goldman Productions; Women First HealthCare; Viejas Casino & Turf Club; In Any Event , Lindner & Doucet Event Planners; Bank of America; and BMW.
In addition to our sponsors I would like to give a special round of thanks to our teammates at the Business Journal for their energy and professionalism. The overall chair of the event was Charlie Chase, our director of sales. Her vision and desire to take the event to the highest level in its six-year history was evident by the rousing applause and laughter throughout the night. The Broadway production company of Harris Goldman, which produced the hit musical “Forever Plaid,” choreographed the entire evening. Not only did they cut off 90 minutes from the year before, they injected an air of fun and pizzazz that took the event up another notch. Nearly the entire marketing, accounting and administrative departments were involved in making the event happen; however, a couple of teammates deserve special recognition: Laura Marquez and Roseleigh Frankel. It goes without saying too many people to mention were responsible for making the 1999 Women Who Mean Business Awards dinner the best of this millennium, so thank you to all those who touched this event.
To the balance sheet.
Credit: To the San Diego Association of Governments and the Regional Economic Development Corp. for teaming up with the brokerage industry to inventory all the employment land available for use as we enter the new millennium. All the parcels in the county were inventoried over the last 12 months to create a massive computer database, the most current on record, to allow all municipalities to update it on a regular basis. The Web site named REDI is free to all who wish to check it out. The address is: (http://cart.sandag.cog.ca.usredi). Take a look if you’re interested, the collection of data is complete with color photographs and maps.
Credit: To the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau for the tremendous marketing job they have done throughout the world making San Diego County one of the top 25 markets. Overnight visitors and convention delegates generated a record $116.4 million in hotel and motel room taxes during fiscal 1999 (period ending June 30) , an 8.4 percent increase over the same period a year ago. The record dollars place us right behind Miami as the hottest hotel market in the nation. The city of San Diego captured the lion’s share of the cash, netting $91.2 million. Reint Reinders and his superstars deserve a giant round of applause.
Credit: To Steve Cade and his team at La Jolla Club Golf Co. for staying above the competition in his manufacture of kids and women’s golf clubs and apparel. La Jolla Club is the No. 1 junior golf club equipment manufacturer in the world. They have just opened their new fitting and testing center in Vista along Highway 78. Steve could have located his newest venture anywhere but he chose San Diego. Keep up the good work Steve.