Attendee's Perspective: Retail, Marketing, and "Power Couples" Panels

My first panel was on retail, moderated by Professor Janice Hammond. Panelists included Jane Biering of Staples, Barbara Fitzgerald of PETsMART, Judith Hofer of the May Merchandising Company, and Dorothy Roberts of the Echo Design Group. All of the women held influential positions within their companies and spoke to the changes that retailers face in a global sourcing environment.

The effects of September 11th and a difficult economy had an impact on some companies more than others (office and pet supplies seemed to weather the recession best), but all women remained optimistic about retailing and their role in it. The women also offered opinions on changes in the workplace for female executives; Dorothy Roberts would know, she’s been working in her family’s business since 1950!
The next session I attended was a marketing panel moderated by Professor Nancy Koehn. The four women panelists represented marketing in all its forms; Dawn Williams-Thompson from Procter & Gamble, Elizabeth Pasciucco from Fidelity Investments, Phebe Farrow Port from Stila cosmetics and Ann Fandozzi from Daimler Chrysler.
After a brief description of each of the women’s careers to date, the panelists launched into a discussion of the effect of globalization on today’s brands. Nancy Koehn kept the discussion moving as the women answered questions from the emotional appeal of the different brands to recent developments in advertising and their opinions of them. (Note to executives, the women in the room were not fond of the new commercial for the Concorde sedan…).

My final panel of the day was entitled “Power Couples”, moderated by Leslie Cintron of the Radcliffe Public Policy Center. The three couples on the panel consisted of Joanne Burke, regional manager for HSBC Bank, Tim Burke, partner with Bingham Dana LLP, Karen Dawes, Senior VP of the Bayer Corporation, Alan Dawes, CFO for Delphi Automotive Systems, Mary Kroupa Wells, Manager with Bain and Co. and Scott Wells, VP of Bain and Co.

The couples spoke about the difficulties that emerge when both partners have extensive time commitments in their professional lives and ways to work around those difficulties. The bulk of the session was spent answering questions from the audience, with inquiries about childcare arrangements, vacation planning, sharing of duties and deciding where to live.

The Dawes have had an arrangement for the past 10 of their 20 married years where Alan lives and works in Detroit, Karen lives and works in Connecticut, and they converge in Florida or Newport, RI for their weekends together. No one can say they’re not paying their share of real estate taxes!

The other couples had the pleasure of living in the same household all week long, but still faced issues as the demands of their jobs increase. There was no magic solution to making it work as a power couple, but communication certainly played a huge role in keeping all of their marriages healthy.

All in all, a wonderful day and a valuable learning experience!

February 4, 2002
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