While women have made tremendous strides in bridging the gender gap in business leadership, research reveals the ways in which they continue to lag behind. Women are still paid 79 cents to the dollar, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. While men will apply for a job even if they meet only 60 percent of the eligibility criteria, women will do so only if they meet 100 percent, according to research from a Hewlett-Packard report. Further, women currently hold only 4.2 percent of CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies.
To honor the work of New Jersey women who have been leaders in business, the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, in association with the Women in Business Alliance, will celebrate four trailblazers.
The fourth annual “Women of Achievement” Awards breakfast will be held at TPC Jasna Polana on Thursday, June 23, from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $50; $65 for non-members. Those interested can register at www.princetonchamber.org.
The 2016 honorees are Reza Green, Kim C. Hanemann, Chaya Pamula, and Paula Harrington. These women hold a variety of titles and positions, from vice president of a company specializing in intellectual property law, to CEO of a global NGO, to senior vice president of an electric and gas company.
One of the four honorees, Paula Harrington, attributes much of her success to her personal stake in her company’s mission. Harrington explains she was able to combine her interest in business management with her passion for service and desire to work in the nonprofit sector.
Harrington’s business, Association Business Solutions, is a management company that primarily works with 501(c)3 and 501(c)6 nonprofits, including the American Heart Association, the NJ YMCA State Alliance, and area nonprofits such as the 200 Club of Mercer County. ABS provides the full staff and headquarter office for some organizations, while for others they provide specific services, such as advocacy or accounting.
“I believe that for a nonprofit to run well, many of the same aspects of running a for-profit come into play,” Harrington says. “There’s a lot for-profits can do to help them run efficiently. And the work we do helps these organizations carry out their mission in an important way.”
Harrington explains that the idea of ABS evolved from discussion and collaboration with her business partner, Karla Pollack.
“We had always liked the idea of building something from the ground up,” Harrington says. “It was exciting to think about making the greatest impact possible with the non profit organizations.”
Every staff member of ABS also works with a non-profit in their private lives, Harrington says. Harrington is currently on the board for Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, an organization that provides housing and employment training to those who have been through the prison system.
Harrington first became interested in business when she was a child, watching her father, a shoe salesman, at work.
“As he was working we would discuss all types of topics, from customer service, to sales — he would share all kinds of things that comprise running a business. I always loved when I was lucky enough to spend a Saturday with him at his store,” Harrington says.
Harrington grew up in North Dakota, where her father was employed before he worked his way up to CEO of Lady Foot Locker. Harrington lists her father among her most important mentors, saying that his support fueled her self-confidence.
“I think that when you’re around someone generous and supportive and knowledgeable in that way it helps you grow and think beyond limitations you have on yourself. This support certainly made me think a little bit broader about what I was capable of achieving,” Harrington says.
Harrington says that another important mentor of hers was her former boss, Sharon Harrington. (Despite the shared last name, the two are not related.) The former boss was the first female partner in the state’s top government affairs company.
“She shared her expertise, her passion and more than anything her belief in me that I could achieve career success. Her building me up while being a firm teacher during my vulnerable early years in Trenton is no doubt one the reasons that I am now business owner,” Harrington says.
Harrington explains she hopes to fill the same mentorship role for other women, and create a work environment as open, supportive, and accommodating as possible. She says one of her achievements as a business leader is fostering an atmosphere cognizant and understanding of the unique challenges women face.
“I think particularly because we are a woman-led business, for everyone on our staff we are very family friendly,” Harrington says. “We’ve always operated where family comes first and whenever anybody has anything coming, we all pull together and pick up the slack.”
Harrington says that her work with nonprofits exposes her to constant learning about new industries and causes that are of great personal importance to her. Of her work, Harrington says, “It never gets boring.”