The Experiences of Executive and Entrepreneurial Women
Yorko, Jessica L.
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While this Senior Individualized Project was completed in the Economics department, it has been conducted with an interdisciplinary approach. The fact is that the phenomena explored in this project are like many of the academic issues addressed in a liberal arts program in that they look at events holistically, contextually, and as operating within economic, social, political, and ecological systems that are not isolated, but rather interrelated and interdependent. This project was a way for me to bring together some of the issues that have drawn my attention in my coursework at Kalamazoo College. It was also a way for me to make contact with professional people who have also grappled with these issues in their own lives. While the "findings" constitute the bulk of this paper, I would like to stress that the process was just as, if not more significant to me than the actual "information obtained". This type of learning and discovery process has been the real trademark of my research and creative experiences over the past several years. Often the beauty of things is more about the journey than the destination .. What you will read in this paper is a presentation of the work I have done for my Senior Individual Project. This bulk of the work involved conducting sixteen interviews with businesswomen in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I also read a number of books, newspaper and magazine articles, and economic, business, psychology, and even law journal articles. The structure of this paper is designed to take the reader through the "processes" that I underwent in working on this project. I didn't necessarily have a question I wanted to answer. I just wanted to see what was out there, and what kind of patterns would emerge and take shape as I explored the topic. I definitely have strong feelings about the ideas in this project otherwise I wouldn't have studied it. Throughout the project, I experienced new and different feelings as I uncovered new and different information. My perspective of the issue broadened. As I was conducting the study, I meant to be doing a comparison between women who are top executives (in a company owned by someone else) and women who run their own business or are self-employed. I thought that women who had gone out on their own would be much more satisfied. But they weren't. And I didn't really want to look at the 'differences' and make up a bunch of personality characteristics or behaviors for groups A and B. No, no. I just wanted to listen to what people were saying. I didn't want to look at them as groups A and B, but as dynamic everyday people. I do enough talking, as many of you know. So this project could be considered an exercise in listening and learning. It was a great exploration, drawing from many sources. The main conclusion drawn from this exploration is that everything is going to be okay. If they can do it, so can I. Women can be strong, intelligent, capable, willful, headstrong, and kind and caring all at once. In fact, being kind and caring requires can sometimes mean being strong and willful. The business world in this country is undergoing a great change right now, and it has to do with the fact that women are professionally employed and are successful business leaders. Attitudes are changing, and so are policies. One of the most important aspects of these changes is the strengthening of authentic interrelations between men and women. Yes, we're different in some ways and the same in others. But I've heard that the variation of characteristics within a group of women or within a group of men is greater than the variation of characteristics between a group of men and a group of women. Either way, I think that both decision making in all realms. Women are currendytransforming business and transforming society. This power should not be taken lighdy. We can weild our influence in a number of ways, and I hope that women will encourage actions that are not just good for women, but good for all people.