Women business leaders focus of KeyBank-sponsored talks

Posted May 13, 2009, at 9:29 p.m.

Hoping to encourage the growth of businesses owned and managed by women in Maine, KeyBank is sponsoring talks by national expert Sharon Hadary in Augusta and Dedham today.

Hadary, 67, is the founder of the Center for Women’s Business Research in McLean, Va., and served as its executive director for 20 years. Now a consultant in private practice, Hadary continues to use research in her work with businesses and financial institutions to improve the climate for women in nonprofit and corporate settings.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Hadary said 2008 data show that Maine ranks 30th in the nation in the growth of women-owned businesses, based on the number of firms, the number of workers they employ and their corporate revenues. Maine’s rural nature and its declining manufacturing sector are linked to the state’s poor ranking, she said. The good news is that businesses owned by Maine women show stronger financial growth than the national average, she said.

“The firms that are here are more substantial,” Hadary said.

In the two decades she has worked in the field, Hadary said, the perception of women as entrepreneurs and leaders has changed. No longer perceived as low-profile, low-profit, home-based businesses, companies owned by women have become a respected and important part of the national business landscape, she said.

Once considered “cute little girls at home in their kitchens,” she said, women are now recognized as running “viable businesses that may have started in their kitchens but now are distributing products internationally.”

Research shows that women business leaders are more likely than their male counterparts to bring together diverse project teams — people of differing ideas, backgrounds and ethnicities, Hadary said. They’re more collaborative in their management styles and value relationship building more than men, who tend to focus more on facts, logic and hierarchy, she added. Corporations need both approaches, Hadary said, but companies with more women in senior management positions tend to have stronger financial performances.

Women’s more inclusive leadership style — “when ideas and collaboration are taking precedence over production and procedure” — will be an essential element of the recovery from the nation’s current economic doldrums, she predicted.

Hadary’s appearances in Maine today are being sponsored by KeyBank’s “Key4Women” program. She will speak at a lunchtime meeting in Augusta of the Women’s Business Network of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Lucerne Inn in Dedham. There is no charge to attend the presentations, but seating is limited. For information, call Janet Bright at Key Bank at 874-7286.

Bangor lawyer Roberta Winchell, recently named to the national board of the Key for Women program, will be given an achievement award at Hadary’s afternoon talk in Dedham.

mhaskell@bangordailynews.net

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