Women in nontraditional work roles

Monday, December 3, 2012
LAURA SIMON ~ lsimon@semissourian.com
Donna Johannes Schuette
Vice president and owner of Johannes Auto Sales

Women have come a long way since the women's suffrage movement, the equal rights era and Title IX. Women now make up the majority of students at most colleges, and they continue to take on higher level careers, working side by side with their male counterparts. And for a town of Cape Girardeau's size, we are impressed by the number of women in careers still primarily male-dominated such as finance, technology, law enforcement and politics. We interviewed three women about their work in industries where women are still few and far between.

Donna Johannes Schuette, vice president and owner of Johannes Auto Sales

Donna Schuette was born and raised in the family business in Jackson. In addition to her work at Johannes, she has her own interior design firm, Design Impressions. She's married to Donald Schuette Jr. and they have two children: Lauren, 21, and Hunter, 17.

Your dad started this business -- did you ever think you would end up running an auto business? How did you end up with this role?

My parents started the business in May 1963. I was born in February 1962, so I have been involved in the business since I was a year old. ... I can't say that I thought I would be helping to run the business early on, but I am proud to work with my dad and keep the business going. The business has always been a part of my life and I have always been a part of the business, so the decision to go back to our family business was an easy one for me. ... Even though he is retired, you will find my dad in his office most days. I have learned so much from my dad just by being involved in the business on a daily basis. My dad is one of the smartest businessmen I know, so I try to make decisions like I think he would. One employee who has worked with us for many years calls my dad "No. 1," and he calls me "1 1/2" because he says I am just like my dad. I take that as a compliment! I guess salvaging things is just in my blood.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

What I like best about my job is the freedom to work around my family's schedule. We have a good crew of employees, so I feel comfortable leaving things in their hands when I need to attend something for one of my kids. I also enjoy helping our customers save money. I am a bargain hunter when I shop, and so I like giving other people a bargain. I also like that fact that women can feel comfortable coming into our showroom. We work very hard to keep our office clean and our salesmen are used to interacting with me, so they work well with our female customers. I am also very proud to be able to carry on a business that my dad has spent his life building. If I had let a fear of not being accepted in this industry keep me from taking on the job, the 50 years of hard work my father put into our business would have been for naught.

We don't see a lot of women working in this business. What does it take to be successful as a woman in this field?

I think the No. 1 thing women need to be successful in this business is self-confidence. ... I know a lot about parts and I am confident in my ability to look up the parts. I am by no means a mechanic and I don't try to act like one, but I do know what most parts are called and where they are on the vehicle. I am able to look up parts for most of the calls we receive, but I also know my limits and turn the call over to the men at the counter if I am not certain about a part. ...

Another thing women in the salvage business need is tough skin. I have learned to stand my ground if I know I am right and not to get offended if men don't want me to look up their parts for them. ... Some men just have a hard time accepting the fact that I can actually find the right parts for them, so I bite my tongue and step aside for one of our men to assist them. The main thing is for my customer to get the parts they need, and there is not a need for me to prove myself.

For women who do have an interest in cars, or any other male-dominated industry, why should they go for it?

I feel that anyone, male or female, should pursue a career in whatever field interests them and wherever their strengths lie. For women, if you are interested in cars and have a talent that will help you be successful, then there is no reason not to go for it. Have confidence in yourself as a woman and you should excel. Women just need to be a little stronger and work a little harder to be accepted in a male-dominated career, but it is worth it if that is your passion. ... Women have certain strengths or characteristics that can be a real asset to a business in a male-dominated field, so there is no reason to hold back if you want to work in this field.

What advice do you have for other women on balancing work, family and other commitments?

Make your family come first ahead of work and other commitments. Kids really do grow up before you know it. I am fortunate that I own the business, so that makes it easier for me to take time off to be a room mother at school or scout leader. But even if you are not your own boss, try to find a way to make family come first. ... With advances in technology, there are often ways that women can get their work done and still be available to their family. ...

Another piece of advice, and this is a big one: learn to say no. That is a hard one, and I can't say that I have totally mastered that skill! ... Sometimes there just is not enough of me to go around. It is better to be able to give enough of yourself to a few activities instead of a little bit of yourself to too many activities.

Another way to balance it all is to accept help. I am fortunate to have a husband who is involved in our children's activities as well. Another thing that is hard to do is not to be too hard on yourself if you have to miss an activity your children are in because of work. ... It's hard, but I try to live by advice my husband and I give our kids: "If you have done your best, that's all you or anyone else can ask of you."

Diane Smith, Director of information systems at Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Diane Smith, director of information systems, Saint Francis Medical Center

Diane Smith grew up in Advance, Mo., and began working at Saint Francis while attending Southeast Missouri State University. She earned her bachelor of science degree in health care adminstration and has worked with Saint Francis ever since. She is a wife to Calvin and mother to Alisha Gammon in Nashville, Tenn.

What first interested you about this career field? How did you get from there to where you are today?

I actually had an early interest in the arts -- specifically acting and theater. However, I chose business as a profession because it seemed more stable. I have questioned that decision through the years, but I have no regrets. After I started at Saint Francis at an early age, I was fascinated by the complexity and the many challenges typically found in any business while at the same time always trying to do the right thing for the patients. One side involves more definitive solutions while the other side involves a lot of variables, human interaction and unique situations.

And now, what do you enjoy most about your job?

Observing the energy and talent of others as they come together to solve problems and work toward a positive outcome.

Tell us some more about your big projects at Saint Francis -- we read about the ranking in IT News magazine, and it sounds like you've really taken leadership on the electronic medical records conversion.

We had gotten first in the medium hospital category for "Best Hospital IT Departments to Work" last year, and fifth this year nationally. It is an indication that we are good at hiring the right people who share common goals and work together well.

At Saint Francis, we have had a strategy since 2004 to work toward an electronic medical record. Unlike other applications that most are familiar with, it isn't a "go buy one, install it and you are done." It involves many different kinds of systems that feed into it, years of getting hundreds of staff members using those various systems and trying to standardize data with thousands of variables. Once all of those things are in place, physicians provide the final step by entering their orders and progress notes electronically. The complexity of making all of this work is extremely challenging.

We don't see a lot of women working IT jobs. What does it take to be successful as a woman in this field?

I know that this field probably is traditionally male-dominated; however, I don't think that the challenges are any greater for women than men. It involves an interest in IT and trying to be the best at what you do, just like any other field.

What do you see in the future for your career, and for IT in general? Do you think more women will join the profession?

Certain aspects of IT were often considered a luxury years ago; however, now it has become a necessity and an assumed part of running any business. The world of convenience applications often associated with mobile solutions such as iPads and smartphones have often been considered completely different from business solutions that require huge back-end servers, applications that were very specific to business needs and a huge amount of IT support. While they will remain different in many ways, users are demanding that front-end convenience and the industry is trying to shift to make that happen. I think that more women are already joining the profession as the industry has opened up many different kinds of opportunities that women are more attracted to.

What advice do you have for other women on balancing work, family and other commitments?

You often have to take things one day at a time and not put too much pressure on yourself to do things to perfection. Prioritizing skills are a necessity and learning that letting some things work themselves out isn't always a bad thing.

Marsha Limbaugh, senior vice president and branch manager of Wells Fargo in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Marsha Limbaugh, senior vice president and branch manager at Wells Fargo

Marsha Limbaugh, a native of Ozona, Texas, moved to Cape Girardeau with her husband, Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. She established a career as a financial adviser, serving the Cape Girardeau Wells Fargo office for 26 years and also taking leadership in many community organizations. She and her husband have two grown sons: Stephen, a musician in Los Angeles, and Christopher, a lawyer in Cape Girardeau.

How did you get into finance -- and to where you are today?

I come from a southwest Texas family. My mother's people were cattle and sheep ranchers and my father was a self-made independent oil producer. Self reliance -- standing on my own two feet -- was taught to me at an early age. My parents encouraged me to pursue a career in business and to lay a foundation for that goal by first obtaining both bachelor's and master's degrees in business. My mother's financial adviser was a woman, and she suggested I consider a career as a financial adviser. With my MBA in hand, I signed on with a regional brokerage firm in Dallas. The following year my husband and I moved to his hometown of Cape Girardeau. He joined the family law firm, and I went to work for another regional brokerage firm, Reinholdt and Gardner, as a financial adviser. After a succession of acquisitions by other firms, including A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., our branch office became Wells Fargo Advisors in 2008. In addition to being a financial adviser, I have served as branch manager of the Cape Girardeau office for more than 26 years, and I have been fortunate to rank among the company's top advisers nationwide.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I especially enjoy the variety of activities and events that each day brings and researching and navigating the ever-changing complex financial markets. Above all, I feel tremendous satisfaction in the day-to-day interaction with my clients, placing their needs first and receiving their trust in return.

For a long time, and perhaps still today, the finance industry has been a male-dominant career field. What does it take to be successful as a woman in finance?

Increasingly, one's education and training in business and finance are more important factors to success than one's gender. Of course, networking in the business world is critically important as well, and women are becoming more adept at that skill, too. Being able to relate well with people -- when backed by a solid knowledge and understanding of business finance and how it applies to the financial markets -- will bring success to men and women advisers alike.

You've been active in the community for a long time -- tell us more about that, and why you're passionate about these issues.

Throughout my career I have been involved in numerous charitable and civic activities, serving at both the local and state levels. They include service as a director or officer on the Southeast Missouri Hospital Foundation, the Southeast Missouri State University Foundation, the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, the Zonta Club, the Cape Parks and Recreation Board, the State Lottery Commission, the Secretary of State Securities Advisory Board, the Missouri Mansion Preservation Board and the 8th District Military Academy Review Board. In addition, I am an active member of Centenary United Methodist Church.

I firmly believe that to achieve real success, it is not enough simply to perform our jobs in a competent and ethical manner. We also have an obligation -- a debt of gratitude -- to use our gifts and talents to support our churches, our charities and all things good for Cape Girardeau.

What advice do you have for other women balancing work, family and other commitments?

Balance is the right word, and it requires a plan to achieve it. Commit yourself and your family to developing a plan and then making it work, adjusting it when needed. The extra effort, dedication and prioritizing of your faith and family is an investment that will pay dividends for generations. You see, whatever values we pass down to our children, they will pass down to our grandchildren, and they to their children. It all comes back -- the joy, the rewards and the love. The resources to help balance work and family are vast. For more information, visit your local library or just Google "balancing work and family!"

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