A Delicate Balance

Kathryn Kranen and Karen Bartleson have several things in common. Both of these women are electrical engineers by training and both have successfully pursued management roles in the EDA industry. Kranen is President and CEO of Jasper Design Automation, Inc. and Bartleson is Director for Interoperability and Quality at Synopsys, Inc.

Kranen and Bartleson have something else in common, as well. They were both in attendance at the DAC 2003 Workshop for Women in Design Automation in Anaheim, and they both took singular issue with a comment made by Cadence Design Systems Executive Vice President and CMO Penny Herscher during her keynote address.

Herscher noted that, in her opinion, it's impossible to have what is commonly known as “balance” between one's personal life and one's professional life if one intends to aggressively pursue upward mobility within the corporate chain of command. Herscher was unequivocal in her observations on the topic and left no doubt in anyone's mind that her own personal experience contributed heavily to her conclusions.

Herscher may or may not have been surprised, then, to learn that both Kranen and Bartleson disagreed with her thesis as stated that afternoon in Anaheim, and continue to disagree with her today. Both Kranen and Bartleson maintain that, in fact, many of the women in Herscher's audience in Anaheim disagreed with her and subsequently shared their concerns with Kranen and Bartleson in various conversations at DAC immediately following the workshop.

Hence, by way of laying out an opposing viewpoint to Herscher's, I was invited to listen in on a 2-way conversation between Kranen and Bartleson on July 16th and to report on their co-mingled theories about how it is possible for a successful corporate player - male or female - to achieve balance around family life, professional accomplishment, personal satisfaction, and physical well-being. Both women insisted during their hour-long dialog that, although they have nothing but the highest regard for Herscher, on this particular topic they respectively and strenuously disagree with her conclusions.

Kranen: “I came to the Workshop specifically to hear my friend, Penny, speak. But for the next two days, one woman after another asked me, 'Is that really true? Do you have to decide to make your family second?' People were actually teary eyed in talking to me at such a sad prospect [facing] women.”

“Well, I disagree with Penny. Maybe I'm in denial, maybe my situation is different. Although, one thing I do admire about Penny - her life is more than just being CEO at Simplex or having a big-profile job at Cadence. It's about advancing the cause of equality between men and women.”

“We had an interesting debate about this back in 1993 and 1994 when I was at Quickturn. I was VP of Sales for the company, and the San Jose Mercury News called and asked me if I would be willing to be interviewed because [at the time] I was the second-highest paid woman in Silicon Valley. I was earning about $450,000 in those high-salary years.”

“The article that came out about me said something like, 'Kathryn Moore' - Moore was my maiden name - 'never expected to be treated any differently than a man and she never has been. But Ms. Moore, as second-highest paid woman in Silicon Valley, only made $480,000 last year. She's in denial about the inequality being shown her.' The point of the story was that I wasn't earning anything close to what the second-highest paid man in the Valley was earning [and didn't seem to notice].”

“At the time, Penny said to me, 'Kathryn, you're doing a disservice to women. You're dominant, technical, strong, and you blend into a men's management team. But to pretend that we're all treated equally is just bogus.'”

“Now I know that I was naïve in 1993. Now I know it's just nice idealism to think that as a woman in the workplace, you can ignore the differences [between men and women] and that you'll be recognized for your merit. But my situation today is different, nonetheless, from Penny's when she was [CEO] at Simplex. Today I'm doing my job for the pride of accomplishment. I'm doing something big, making good money, and having fun. But, I'm not doing it for a cause. I'm not like Penny. I'm setting a good example [for other women], but other than that, it's not important to me to invest my time and energy [in mentoring women].”

“I come to work every day at 9, work until 6, and try to be home by 6:30. I have hired someone to cook - although, maybe one day a week I cook - so that when I arrive home we can all sit down immediately and eat together as a family. That's the time that I transition my brain [from being a CEO to being a mom]. For me, eating is a fabulous transition. I talk with Kevin [Kranen] and share ideas - my husband contributes so much to my life - and 20 minutes later we're playing with the children [ages 2 and 5]. We play, do bedtime stories, and put the children to bed.”

“At 9 PM, the phone starts ringing and then I'm working until 1 PM every night. I'm definitely putting in my 60 hours each week, putting in my time. I work 'til exhaustion sets in and I'm usually pretty groggy [as a result] in the morning. People know not to call me, however, from 6 PM to 9 PM, and not to call before 7 AM. Meanwhile, I know when each one of my people is working. I know who I can call late, who I can call early. In a big company, this [sort of flexibility] just isn't possible. It's not possible to have this kind of sensitivity, knowing who has young families, customizing the business around specific family needs.”

“Ultimately, however, I don't believe it's about whether it's a small company, a big company, or a start-up. It's about a company recognizing that it's about asking a family to sacrifice. My husband has been at Synopsys for 14 years and I applaud them [for their commitment to the families of their employees]. I think they set a good example for the industry.”

“When [our son] Kyle was 2 or 3 years old, we would bring him to the Family Fair at Synopsys that they had in the parking lot every summer. [Because of that], Kyle thought that Daddy worked with Elmo and Winnie the Pooh. It took him a long time to figure out that Elmo doesn't work with Daddy.”

Bartleson: “I think it's really interesting to hear how my life and lifestyle parallels Kathryn's. I have the same characteristics, goals, and patterns. At one time, I also explored doing the start-up thing, but I decided it didn't fit my personality. I decided I wanted to be sure that my employer paid the bills and kept the lights on. And I didn't want to fall back into working 7 days a week.”

“Working at big companies has allowed me to guarantee balance in my life. I really appreciate that Synopsys is supportive of my family and our personal lives. In return, it make me more dedicated as an employee. Chi-Foon Chan and Aart de Geus, and all the other executives at Synopsys, have this attitude and it permeates throughout the whole company. Aart de Geus has made the choice to have family balance in his life and that has impacted all of Synopsys.”

“When I decided to have a family, I made the conscious decision to put the children first, as the most important [thing in my life]. I knew that I didn't have the discipline to work late and work weekends, like Kathryn does. So I don't work weekends, unless there's an emergency. I don't miss birthdays, or band concerts, or any other important events. My husband and I have a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, and we eat dinner together every night. That's always been an important time for us.”

“I gave up things like hobbies a long time ago and [learned] to design my hobbies around things that I had to do anyway. So I do gourmet cooking every night. I make something really cool and am able to combine my outside interest [in cooking] with my [obligation to the] family. I also exercise every day and I follow a nutrition program. If I didn't, I would die. I hold that exercise as sacred, as well.”

“When our kids were 9 and 10-years-old, I also taught them to do their own laundry. I haven't done their laundry since. I'm pretty sure this is an important life skill that will be great for them, especially when they get to college.”

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