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Women Living & Working the Dream
This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper
on February 3, 1999. All rights reserved.
Of the three women featured on our "Women in Business"
cover, all, at age 50 plus, are breaking new ground. Dorothea Coccoli
Palsho heads one of the world’s leading interactive publishers. Anne
Van Lent is the first woman vice president at one of the nation’s
leading research think tanks. Velvet Miller is funded by a preeminent
foundation to create a new paradigm for children’s health care.
None of these women were born to privilege; two were the first in
their families to attend college. All three have made significant
sacrifices to combine their careers with their family lives, yet all
have found personal as well as professional fulfillment. For each,
this is their dream job.
Dorothea Coccoli Palsho, at the age of 51 and after
23 years with the firm, is president of Dow Jones Interactive Publishing, the
electronic publishing division of Dow Jones & Company. She was named
president three years ago, in 1995, and the following year she launched
the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, which now has more than
265,000 paid subscribers and is the largest paid subscription site
on the Internet. Coccoli Palsho put Dow Jones Interactive on an Internet
platform in September, 1997, and now, with 600,000 paid subscribers,
it is the largest paid corporate news and information service in the
"What pushed us ahead was making two calls correctly: Where was
the market of business people going, and who were the individuals
looking at the information," says Coccoli Palsho. Dow Jones chose
to disseminate the information as broadly as possible. "Today
that looks like a slam dunk, but back in 1995-’96, it was a very gutsy
She is proud of her company’s business reporting tradition; she has
taken brands that were established in the last century and transformed
them to relevant business products for the next century. But as committed
as she is to her job — she works very long hours indeed —
Coccoli Palsho is equally purposeful in her personal life.
Though some women who balance childraising with a very ambitious career
might claim they can "have it all," Coccoli Palsho believes
that, in reality, you have to give something up. She and her husband,
an attorney, have two teenage sons, around whom their personal lives
revolve. She is also a long-time active board member at the Children’s
Home Society of New Jersey. What Coccoli Palsho has given up is "time
for myself. I don’t have it. That’s just the way it is."
"Fundamentally," says Coccoli Palsho, "I am very mindful
of the fact that what we are all about is brand and quality of content.
In publishing, we call it the chemistry of publishing, which is much
broader than reporting and editing; it is also organization, selection,
When Dow Jones started preparing for the digital age, some 15 years
ago, corporate management was changing. "Back in the mid ’80s
there was a significant purging of middle managers in American business,"
she says. "People became self-reliant because the economy dictated
it." Young people, just entering business, were comfortable using
PCs and relied on themselves to make faster and smarter decisions.
"We looked at where the market was headed and designed, refined,
and totally re-architected our product for the broad desktop marketplace
at corporations around the world. Previously information was accessed
by information professionals, who remain very important and very good
customers. However we recognized very early on the power of the Internet
as a publishing platform. Much earlier than our competition we redefined
the market that we served and the products we offered."
Now Coccoli Palsho has two significant products: Both hold the number
one position in their respective markets. "That has not always
been the case," she points out, referring to a time just a couple
of years ago when Dow Jones Interactive was coming in third to Nexus
The Interactive Wall Street Journal is the business consumer product,
and Dow Jones Interactive (DJI), targets corporations around the world
that want to purchase business service for their employees’ desktops.
"Today it is available on the public Internet, but we have developed
software tools that we provide to companies so they can integrate
our extensive information with the companies’ internal information
to make it useful to their employees," says Coccoli Palsho.
Dorothea Coccoli Palsho was the first in her family to go to college,
and she says she learned her work ethic from her mother. "My mother
was an exemplary role model who withstood a lot of criticism for working
full time. I wanted to emulate her."
Coccoli Palsho had grown up in a suburb of Philadelphia, Lafayette
Hill, and her father worked as a foreman in the men’s clothing industry.
But when he had severe health problems, her mother had to go to work
to support the family.
Coccoli Palsho tells the story about how her mother,
now 91 and living in Princeton, became a secretary when she was in
her mid 40s. She had forgotten her high school training and when she
applied for a job, she flunked her first test for stenography. "She
went back and said she would like an opportunity to be retested. No
one had ever asked that." Endeavoring to polish her skills, she
tried to buy a book, but the books for her stenography language were
out of print. "It was an incredible search, but she found the
book in a Catholic school in Canada. She purchased the book, practiced,
and got the job."
After high school Coccoli Palsho followed in her mother’s footsteps
and worked as a secretary for seven years, ending up as a legal secretary.
With the encouragement of the attorneys from her firm, she went to
Villanova University, intending to become a lawyer, but found she
liked business much more. She graduated summa cum laude with a major
in business, and then earned an MBA from Temple.
She moved to the Princeton area in 1977 to work for Dow Jones as a
circulation marketing assistant. "I was particularly struck with
the Dow Jones offer because the job being described to me was very
open. I was to be a generalist and essentially come in and help the
people who were running the circulation department to do whatever
they needed done. I loved the idea that one day I would develop an
incentive plan for sales people, and the next day, marketing research,
and the next day do business planning and systems analysis."
Another big factor was the quality of the product. "It was important
to align myself with a company producing or publishing products that
I admired," says Palsho. "If I didn’t believe in it, it would
be hard to be passionate about trying to advance it."
Coccoli Palsho did not marry until she was 34 and she had her children
two years and five years later. Her future husband lived at her apartment
complex. "I helped a very good friend of mine meet him, but he
ended up marrying me." Her adult stepdaughter is named Erika,
and their teenage sons (Christopher and Ryan) attend Princeton Day
"When I left the first time to go on maternity leave for Dow Jones,
a colleague thanked me for my contribution to Dow Jones, and I said,
`I am coming back.’ People have asked me whether balancing home and
career is overwhelming. My answer: One has choice. You can look at
the glass half full or half empty. I think my life is rich, very demanding,
and often times exhausting, but it is a choice."
"Our children are our world," she says, simply. "We want
to be with them. You have to learn what you are willing to sacrifice,
and that may be yourself. As I say to my dear friends, one day I am
going to play tennis and read novels, but they are not on the list
"What my lifestyle does for our sons — or what I hope it does
for our sons — is give them an example of how, if they wish, they
can have a happy full life and have children who are deeply loved
and cared about, and share that life with a woman who wishes to work.
They have something to look at, to say, `if I do this, I see from
my household it can work’."
"But I believe strongly that there is not one right way,"
she adds, noting that her "deepest and dearest friends" are
not employed outside the home but "are extremely bright and extremely
well versed. You are not what you do but you are who you are."
As for her own family, "I deeply wanted to be a mother and deeply
wanted to have more than one child because I am an only child."
But her work schedule eliminates nearly every other non family-related
activity. To help solve the time problem, she gave up doing her own
household chores, hires daily help, and does not drive herself to
work, using that time instead to read.
With the boys’ sports and rehearsal schedules, the Palshos have also
relinquished weekday family meals. "On weekends we try to have
family breakfasts and family dinners," she says.
She stays organized: "I find that I do my best work and am at
my best at home when I am in control of my situation rather than getting
behind. It behooves me to organize as I am. If I see a great item
in July I buy it for Christmas. I am always thinking ahead because
that works for me."
Coccoli Palsho carefully carves out part of her time to do board work
for the Children’s Home Society. "She teaches us all a lesson
that a person who is a mother, wife, and very successful in the corporate
world has taken a proportion of her time to make life a little better
for the children in our community, specifically for abused children,"
says Donna C. Pressma, executive director of CHSNJ. "She is very
clear about her values, and she does what some people just talk about."
One example of how she used her expertise was to help shape the idea,
the script, and the execution of a 12-minute film and slide show,
"One Child at a Time," which tells the stories that reflect
the problems and successful outcomes of the interventions.
How does Coccoli Palsho get time free to go to all those events that
corporate moms generally have to miss: the children’s doctors’ appointments,
school plays, and sports events? "Essentially, in my head I take
a couple of weeks vacation and assume it away. I think it is the right
and fair thing for the company and the right and fair thing for me.
I believe it is the right and fair way to conduct one’s life. I am
a model for the people in my company as well," she says pointedly.
"I have set a model that they may wish to familiarize themselves
"The reality is, vacation or no vacation, if I do a doctor’s appointment
at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, and if it is protracted, the next day the
same amount of work has to get done. It is not that one isn’t working,
it is like time shifting. When I am done with our son, I either come
back into the office or I work from my study at home."
"To keep up in the industry we are in is extremely demanding.
I read constantly; everyone teases me," she says. "When I
am waiting to pick up the kids from acting class or am at the soccer
field or the hockey rink, I always have something in front of my face.
I believe that one can make extremely good links between what one
reads and what one does."
"I believe Dow Jones melds together the diversity of talents —
the quality of the journalism and the quality of the publications
that we do — I would submit that we are quite excellent at running
the business of publications because we fundamentally understand what
we are good at and what we are not. We understand business people,
how they work and how they make decisions and how extensive information
is included in their decision-making process."
"I truly believe we are redefining what brands and contents mean
for the next millennium," says Coccoli Palsho. "I believe
people will lead more productive lives and be better informed because
of our work."
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