Last week RoseRyan CEO and CFO Kathy Ryan and 99 other women leaders chosen as Women of Influence by the San Jose/Silicon Valley Business Journal were celebrated, wined and dined. Here’s what she had to say about the honor and how business has changed for women since she started her career.
What makes this a real honor for you?
At first I thought of it as kind of a PR gimmick, I have to admit. Then I began getting comments from people—and a lot of them I hadn’t seen or heard from in years. Then, so many people were at the event, from big companies to small, and people were so excited—I realized it really is an honor. These women have done a lot of great things, and it was a genuine honor to be in such a great crowd of talented individuals.
What was the event like?
It was very festive! Almost 1,000 people were there, and I think 96 of the 100 women who were honored showed up.
We [the honorees] were asked to answer the question, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” in 10 words or less. There was a lot of variety but most were along the lines of, follow your heart, work hard, don’t listen to people who say you can’t do it. Some were really funny—for instance, someone said her mother told her, “Don’t marry the pilot. Be the pilot.” Someone else said she came home after a hard day and her husband said, “If it was easy, Paris Hilton would do it.” They held people’s attention—that’s amazing with an audience of 1,000.
What did you say?
Hire people who are more talented than you are and you’ll always be successful. That has guided me with RoseRyan. I think that’s what makes us a great community of talented individuals, and it’s made us a lot better as a company. I’m relying on other people’s talents to move this company forward. It also makes me a better person, a better CEO, manager, owner—the whole bit.
Could something like this have happened 20 years ago, when RoseRyan began?
I don’t know. Move that to 30 years ago, and I’d say no. When I was at Price Waterhouse there were very few women partners anywhere. Accounting was a man’s world. At Quantum, I saw women start to take more of a managerial role. Now I’m seeing more CEOs and CFOs who are women. There are more women’s business organizations that are serious and are respected.
Do women in business really have more influence?
Women have more influence, but I don’t think we’re where we need to be quite yet. Women do have more choices and power than they’ve had in the past. We’ve become part of the regular cycle of business—and it’s no longer a surprise that women are in top roles and are recognized for their leadership and smarts rather than being the lone female in the C suite.