When you listen to such happy talk, it'd be fun to hook each member of this mahogany row to a polygraph so she'd dish on what it's really like to work here. Even without truth serum, they admit there are limits to the flexibility: senior officers describe careers built on 70-hour workweeks and nonstop travel. Most of these women have children; to provide stability at home, many have husbands who've dialed back or quit their careers. But there's still angst. "When you spend four nights in five away from your family during the school year ... there's a lot of anxiety there," Burns says.
There's also anxiety about the underlying business. While Mulcahy has brought Xerox back from the brink, lately its revenue growth has stalled. On a recent weekend, 400 female executives paid their own way to the 17th annual meeting of Xerox's Women's Alliance. But before the weekend of networking, wine tastings, Pilates and trips to Lord & Taylor , Mulcahy spoke about the challenges they face. "Until we turn the revenue corner in a meaningful way, that puts enormous pressure on the bottom line," she said. Then, putting the family-friendly ethos into action, Mulcahy ditched the conference to attend parents' weekend at her son's college.
Revenues aren't the only area in which Xerox can improve. Despite the firm's track record, the National Association of Female Executives currently ranks seven companies—including Avon, Liz Claiborne and IBM—as better places for women managers. To rise higher, says NAFE president Betty Spence, Xerox needs more women with profit-and-loss responsibility and among its top earners. Mulcahy adds that it needs more women abroad; she'd also like to hire more Hispanics and female engineers. Sophie Vandebroek, the company's chief engineer, carries charts listing her success in recruiting women, but until colleges produce more female gear heads, she can do only so much. As for the future, colleagues are rooting for Burns to someday succeed Mulcahy (who turns 53 this week) as CEO, but they know there are no guarantees. Even for a company that's come a long way, baby, there's still far to go.
Leadership Lessons 领导者经验谈
President and CEO, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.