An award of their own

Barbara J. Danforth is appalled.

Perusing a list of the 53 highest paid CEOs in Northeast Ohio, she arrives at the bottom with one glaring fact leaping off the page. It’s not that the CEOs’ salaries are way out of control or that so few people could earn so much money, but that the list does not include one woman.

“This may sound a tad sexist, but when a woman really makes an accomplishment, I think her accomplishments in some ways are superior to those of men because she’s got one additional life balance that most men don’t have full responsibility for, and that’s for their home,” Danforth says. “Yes, men are husbands and fathers, but really, the day-to-day operation and management of the home often falls to the women.

“So not only is she managing the home, she’s managing some very responsible jobs and she’s out in the community, giving back to the community as well.”

Danforth, former chief prosecutor for the City of Cleveland and current executive director of the Cleveland YWCA, knows a thing or two about women not getting their deserved recognition in the workplace. That’s why she’s so proud of this year’s five winners of the Women of Achievement Award, which honors women who have not only succeeded in their profession but who have made a commitment to their community.

“Typically, when you see awards being given in this community, they’re given to a group of men who are in that group of 53,” she says. “Even though women have made enormous strides, women are not receiving the kind of recognition that they are due for the wonderful things they are doing in this community. They are often the unsung heroines of this community, and that’s why the YWCA believes it is very important that in a very large public forum these women are recognized.”

The Greater Cleveland Women of Achievement Award is celebrating its 25th year on May 7 with winners from the areas of government, law, finance and art. It dates back to a time when women climbing to the upper echelons of corporate America were very rare, almost unheard of in Cleveland. The award was first known as the Woman of the Year, but the name was later changed and expanded to reflect the growing presence of women in the business market. There have been as many as 10 awards presented in a year and as few as one.

The event gives companies the chance to recognize women within their organizations with the Women of Professional Excellence Award. Winners are selected by company owners and awards presented before the Women of Achievement Awards.

“Oftentimes within corporate America, within businesses of America, there are women that are doing outstanding work,” Danforth says. “Now they may not be the CEO and they may not be within the prominent or visible position; nonetheless, they’re doing some pretty incredible work within the organization. So we offer businesses the opportunity to identify these women and have them honored at a very, very large, visible, prestigious event.”

Leaders in the community

The Women of Achievement Award not only recognizes women for accomplishments in their professions, but for a proven commitment to their communities as well. The dedication must reflect the Cleveland YWCA’s mission “to empower women and eliminate racism,” a motto the organization adopted in 1971.

“If we do not have people who have time, talent and treasure to give back to our community, our community suffers,” Danforth says. “As my mother used to say, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.‘ Again, that is a philosophy that the YWCA operates under. For women who have much to give, there is some expectation that they will be willing to open their hearts and their minds and their purses to give back to their community.”

Likewise, the Eleanore M. Sutler Equality Award is presented to a company that has shown a commitment toward promoting women and minorities within its organization. This is the sixth year for this award, although it’s only given if a company has proven itself in the eyes of the YWCA’s independent panel of judges.

This year, it will be presented to The Plain Dealer.

And the award goes to …

Heather Roulston Ettinger, a principal at Roulston & Co., a Cleveland-based investment management firm, is one of this year’s Women of Achievement Award winners.

She co-founded the Women Managing Money program for the Women’s Community Foundation and manages the Solutions for Women program. Both are values-based education programs focused on investment management and charitable giving.

“It helps women become advocates for their money and make sure that they are not only smart in terms of managing their money but also in the way they give it away,” Ettinger says. “They have to ask themselves, does it support their values? Is it consistent with what their priorities are?”

Ettinger’s rapid climb from an equity sales trader in Boston to principal at Roulston shows she has paid her dues in the male-dominated field of investment banking. She therefore doesn’t mince words when discussing the differences between men and women in the business world, and the contribution women make.

Women are agents of change,” she says. “If you look at, for example, in the workplace, when women started getting more vocal about maternity leave, that led to not only maternity leave, but paternity leave and family leave. In the not-for-profit world, it’s very much the same thing. Women tend to be focused on not just treating what the current ailment is, but looking at what’s causing the disease, what’s causing the problem and trying to be focused on that.”

This year’s other Women of Achievement Award winners are Inajo Davis Chappell, Ulmer & Berne LLP; Nancy C. Cronin, government liaison for the Cleveland Port Authority; Marcia L. Fudge, mayor of Warrensville Heights; and Phyllis Seltzer, artist. How to reach: Cleveland YWCA, (216) 881-6878

Morgan Lewis Jr. ([email protected]) is a reporter at SBN Magazine.