Women changing the rules of business

How She Does It by Margaret Heffernan

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

SCOTT JAGOW: In Bangladesh this week, a group of women business owners demanded their own separate banks. They want the same access to capital the men get. Female entrepreneurs in this country have the same problem. Less than 10 percent of venture capital goes to women-owned businesses. Still in many other respects, women are changing the way companies are run.That's the premise of a new book. The author is Margaret Heffernan. She's owned several companies herself.

HEFFERNAN: One of the things that's so striking about the companies that women are building is that they tend to adopt a leadership style which is about building very, very strong teams but is not about building, you know, the titanic chief executive that knows everything, decides everything and is the tent pole. Part of what that does is it builds an asset that's more valuable because when someone buys that company, it's sustainable without the founder.

JAGOW: OK that's the good stuff. Now where is the Achilles heel for women who run their own companies?

HEFFERNAN: If there is one, I think it's that often women don't know how good they are. That they sometimes will grow their companies more slowly or more gradually because they don't have the confidence that perhaps they should. Now the good news is, women are much more likely to ask for help than men are. And so . . .

JAGOW: That's the old directions thing.

HEFFERNAN: That's right, that's exactly what it is. And one of the characteristics of the companies that I studied is that these women had surrounded themselves with very astute advisors.

JAGOW: Well we all like to hear stories, can you give me one of your favorite stories from the book?

HEFFERNAN: Sure. I think one of my favorite is Carol Latham. In the '80s, Carol Latham was working for BP in the ceramics department and, you know, she wasn't a computer expert but she looked around and she thought, 'computers are becoming a very big deal, what's going to be the limiting factor on their growth? It's gonna be heat.' And she went to BP and she said, 'we do thermal ceramics, I think we could crack this heat problem.' And they all said, 'no, no, no that's not the business we're in, that's not the business we're in, go back to your bench.' And she became so frustrated that she finally left BP to set up her own business. And she created the world's finest thermally-conductive material. There's a little bit of Carol Latham inside everybody's laptop today because she cracked the heat problem, and when Intel introduced the Pentium chip, guess what they had? They had a big heat problem, and Carol Latham's company was the only one in the world that could solve it. It just goes to show what women can do and why they should be listened to and taken a lot more seriously.

JAGOW: OK Margaret, it's been a pleasure, thank you.

HEFFERNAN: Thank you very much.

JAGOW: Margaret Heffernan is the author. The book is called How She Does It.

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