Tribute to Women Entrepreneurs

President Denise M. Trauth
February 19, 2006


[Five honored as Trailblazer were Liz Carpenter, Ofelia Vasquez-Philo, Elida Mendez Astran, Martha Tatum and Emmie Craddock (posthumously).]

I am so honored to be here. Thank you for inviting me to be with you this afternoon.

You are recognizing five wonderful Trailblazers today. I have had the opportunity either today or earlier to meet our four honorees here today, but I came to Texas too late to meet Emmie Craddock. How many of you here knew Emmie? What a woman she must have been.

Emmie came to Southwest Texas State Teachers College in 1950 after serving in the reserves in World War II. In 1950, waves of young women had returned to their work at home after having filled thousands of jobs for the men who were away in the armed services. Conventional wisdom said that all of these women would be totally content to return – more or less forced to return – to fulltime homemaking and child-rearing. So much for conventional wisdom.

During the days of World War II, male supervisors were a little nonplussed when it came to overseeing the work of females. They’d never done it before – and I’m sure it never occurred to anybody to make the females the supervisors! But I digress. Anyway, these male supervisors were looking for help, and they found it in places like an article written in 1943 in an issue of Transportation magazine. The idea of the article was to give suggestions on how to [quote] “select the most efficient women available and use them to the best advantage.”

This article advised men to:

“Give the female a definite day-long schedule of duties so that she’ll keep busy without bothering the management for instruction…Women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but they lack initiative in finding work.

“Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

“Get enough size variety in operator’s uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can’t be stressed too much in keeping women happy.

“Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters. They’re less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn’t be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard.

“When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home before. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting and are inclined to be fussy and cantankerous.”

Well, can you imagine Emmie Craddock reading this article? This writer just thought he knew what “fussy and cantankerous” was! Emmie would have given him a new definition, for sure!

Emmie must have been quite a lady. Many think of her as “ahead of her time.” I tend to see her instead as “blazing a trail” for the rest of us. And maybe those two things are the same – “ahead of her time” and “blazing a trail.” But I think of “ahead of her time” as meaning a woman accomplished something, and then years, maybe decades or centuries later, we follow. But Emmie blazed a trail that millions of women immediately followed. She had the backbone -- the intestinal fortitude -- to do first what many other women wanted to do themselves.

Emmie was the first female mayor of San Marcos, but we’ve had other women in the role since. In fact, we currently have a very capable woman serving as mayor, one who still has “the pep and interest to work hard.” And I’m proud to live in the city that calls Susan Narvaiz our mayor. Twenty-five years ago, Emmie, as a female mayor, was such a rarity that the New York Times ran a picture of her standing beside her trademark 1952 blue Plymouth.

In 1981 Emmie was actually the first popularly elected San Marcos mayor of either gender. She was a member of the original charter commission back in 1966 and wrote the first city charter that made San Marcos a home rule city. She was the founding director of the Honors Program at Texas State and the first member of the Texas State faculty to be named a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor, designating her as one of the best college professors in Texas. (We’ve had 13 Piper Professors since then.) She was a charter member of the Heritage Association and the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. She founded the Greater San Marcos Economic Development Council and helped start the Corridor Council, the Food Bank and the River Foundation.

Also, you might say that she started the movement that led to the name change at the university. In 1965, she co-authored a book entitled Lyndon Baines Johnson: The Formative Years, in which she wrote, “Indeed throughout its 65-year history, it has been a school in search of a name. …Someday the school will find a more suitable name.” We think she’d like Texas State University-San Marcos.

Emmie was an organizer, a risk taker – in other words, an entrepreneur, since we are honoring entrepreneurs today. Emmie was a natural entrepreneur. And I think women in general are natural entrepreneurs. The business community is beginning to accept this, too, in a way.

As evidence of this little axiom I have just proclaimed – that women are natural entrepreneurs -- I offer some changes I have noticed in business philosophy over recent years. It used to be, back in the days of our World War II author just quoted and long after that, that employees were pretty much the second rung of the ladder, if that. They were to be herded along, tossed aside when they did not fit in. Perhaps it was a mentality borne of the military model. But the business climate was filled with competition, aggression at all costs, dog-eat-dog thinking, and, frankly, a lot of testosterone. Older white males were all we saw around the board table.

Then things began to change. Business philosophy started to lean toward inclusion and innovation – if businesses were to be successful, they had to have a variety of voices around the board table. To be successful, they had to keep valued employees, and that meant that employees must be valued! They had to be listened to, cared for, mentored. And so it was that estrogen entered the business climate.

In the 1980s, women began to ascend to the higher levels of business. (In many cases, they had made the lower levels work for years). They brought with them a sense of listening, caring, mentoring, nurturing, teamwork. The bottom line was the proof that this worked.

Business self-helps came along to bolster this idea. Do you remember TQM? Total Quality Management? If I could be so bold as to boil that down to its simplest form, it would be something like “treat other people like you want them to treat you.” That’s not very new, granted, but it comes from the feminine side of our natures.

Or take Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey champions the virtues of maintaining focus, taking responsibility, keeping our priorities straight, creating win-win situations and keeping lines of communication open. Doesn’t sound very much like a dog-eat-dog climate, does it?

Or how about a book I really like called Good to Great? This is a No. 1 best seller and a book we use at the university. Author Jim Collins studied a set of eleven American businesses that had converted decades of mediocrity into sustainable, long-term superiority. His book is about what those businesses had in common. One of the things he found was that these very successful businesses had similar kinds of leadership. Let me quote: “[These] leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that [they] have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.” Collins also characterizes these business leaders as people who “build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” Although many of these leaders are men, these character traits are quite feminine.

So I submit to you that women make natural business leaders. They are natural entrepreneurs. Women are born visionaries. What mother has not gazed into the crib of her newborn and not seen the next president of the United States or Nobel laureate? Women are born team builders, nurturers, listeners and mentors.

So I am happy that we are honoring women entrepreneurs this afternoon. Congratulations to our new Trailblazers. Emmie Craddock would be proud of you.