Nov 11, 2009 ellen leahy Uncategorized
Syracuse will soon add one more woman to its leadership roster that already includes Onondaga County Exec Joanie Mahoney, SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor, OCC President Debbie Sydow, Syracuse Chamber of Commerce’s Darlene Kerr and many more.
Before I met Stephanie Miner, I have to admit, I had heard of her prosecutorial style and a temperamental nature.
Spending some time observing the Syracuse Common Council in action, I only witnessed her stepping up and asking the tough question, which could tend to make some attendees feel uncomfortable, in particular, her fellow councilors.
I finally met Miner at City Eagle Senior Editor Walt Shepperd’s Q&A during the mayoral campaign. I was taking pictures, and found her to be highly intelligent, motivated, practical, engaging and down to earth. It really took me aback that this reported “difficult woman” even struck me as charming, and also, sincere.
Then, I watched Miner during the campaign both in person and on televised debates and found her to be pretty consistent to my encounter. Actually, I often thought she was being baited (picked on to distract her from actual city issues).
Her experience reminded me of the early days of being in business management as the woman in charge, which I often was. I had to work harder, longer, stronger, smarter and for less money while under total scrutiny that wasn’t used on my male counterparts (Don’t get me wrong I loved those male counterparts).
Consider that back in the 1970s us working gals wore tight tailored clothing that included suits and even ties accompanied by control top, reinforced toe pantyhose and high Bare Traps high heels – you try that 12 hours a day. Phew.
It was the restaurant business. I liked the game. I liked to produce a quality product and good service. I also liked to make money and wanted my staff to make money, too. I was often thought of as tough and a “bitch.” It was difficult, but I always looked at the big picture of ultimate success for all the players including our customers.
I was also charged with using my gut instead of rational, linear, ‘by the book’ logic. Translated, “Your relying on your so called woman’s intuition instead of proven business practice; and too bad you don’t think like a man.”
Actually, there wasn’t any hocus pocus, woman voodoo going on; instead, I was a good listener. I listened to my suppliers, every member of my staff, my guests, my colleagues, the industry analysts, my competition and their customers, my higher ups, and then, I would make decisions based on this macro knowledge, the numbers and travel.
The funny thing was that during my tenure in an independent hospitality chain, I was consistently the most successful business manager on a month to month, year to year basis – both operationally and fiscally. Translated, I knew how to take very good care of our customer’s needs while keeping the business progressive and making money. I didn’t have to trick my customers, or exaggerate our goods or services, as seems to be a common practice today.
But still, I feel, I suffered the subtle harassment of constantly having to prove myself worthy, or fullfill the “It’s never enough syndrome.” This confusing type of treatment is what I felt was thrust upon Miner, too. But I didn’t speak out because I thought it would only be distracting. And, oddly enough, she didn’t play the woman card, so much so that it didn’t even cross my mind until the day before the election that she could be the first female mayor of Syracuse.
So, now that I won’t muddy any water, I would like to thank Stephanie Miner for taking the time to thank all the grandmothers, great aunts, aunts and sisters at her election night victory celebration. She may have been talking about her relatives, but It was taken by many CNY women as a nod to women’s hard work of encouraging and preparing younger women for the game of life; and also for work in the trenches smoothing the way for other women to be able to hit the ground running when going into a professional occupation.
I believe it is the first time I have ever had a younger woman acknowledge that perhaps another woman’s efforts made a difference in her ability to succeed.
And, I am pleased that she added the caveat to men who are smart enough to deal with temperamental women, because, like Stephanie, I enjoy men who enjoy women. Men and woman create a balance that is exciting.
It has been said that former SU Chancellor Kenneth “Buzz” Shaw’s fiscal diligence and leadership at Syracuse University created a structure for Nancy Cantor’s forward thinking, creative style to succeed more readily.
Let’s hope Syracuse serves up a one, two punch with Miner building on the positive groundwork that has been set in motion by Mayor Matt Driscoll, and of course, takes the city even beyond its residents wildest imaginations. As, if nothing else, Central New Yorkers have imagination.