As many of you know, this year we lost our founder, Jean Otte. To honor and remember Jean, we held five Legacy Events across the country in Boston, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Orlando. They were aptly titled: Celebrating Connections: Changing Our World, which is what Jean was all about. She was a role model for creating life-long relationships that changed the world for many in business.
These events were largely created at the request of many of our corporate partners and alumnae. Women and men who felt, and continue to feel, the power of Jean’s vision, of her taking a stand for gender parity almost 25 years ago, before it was widespread or popular. The events provided an opportunity to remember Jean, to share personal stories about her contributions and her one-of-a kind sense of humor, and to network with others impacted by her wisdom and talent.
Comments from just a few of the thousands touched by Jean’s vision
Internally, all of us at WOMEN Unlimited understand the power of Jean. She is not just our founder; she is the heart of our organization. Because of Jean’s vision, thousands of women, thousands of managers and hundreds of corporations better understand how to open pathways to inclusiveness for women at all levels. She was an architect of change, the charismatic leader we hope women attending our programs will become.
For me, Jean was a friend, mentor, sounding board and voice of reason during good times and bad. I was the beneficiary, as were so many others, of her honesty, compassion and common sense. It was so heartening to hear her impact affirmed and re-affirmed through the words of those attending the Legacy events. Here are just a few of their comments:
- “She made me feel like I was the most important person in the world when she talked to me.”
- “From her, I learned how to be a compassionate bad ass.”
- “I share her passion for changing the corporate landscape.”
- “After giving birth, I was presented with a wonderful career opportunity. I hesitated and sought out Jean’s counsel. She posed a simple question: ‘Do you think a man would be thinking like this?’”
In Jean’s own words
Many attendees alluded to Jean’s words of wisdom, which have affectionately come to be known as Thottes (Otte’s Thoughts). A few favorites:
- “It’s not what you know. It’s who knows you know.”
- “Do you want to be right or be successful?”
- “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t write it in an email.”
- “You care more about what others think about you…and they don’t.”
- “Every day at work is a potential job interview.”
- “The right message at the wrong time is the wrong message.”
Tributes take many forms
To further honor Jean’s memory, WOMEN Unlimited held a donation drive for Dress for Success at each event. Dress for Success was chosen because, like Jean and WOMEN Unlimited, they believe in the power of change through action. They inspire women to feel positively about who they are and to gain the confidence they need to make their goals a reality.
Attendees were asked to bring well-loved, slightly worn pieces of jewelry or handbags. Additionally, monetary donations could be made during the event or online at https://dressforsuccess.org/get-involved/donate/, indicating “In memory of Jean Otte.” (If you would like to honor Jean’s legacy with a donation to Dress for Success, you still can.)
Moving it forward
For those of us who knew Jean best and worked closely with her, our grief is mitigated by her legacy. We see her pioneering efforts proven out as a growing body of statistical evidence points to the bottom-line benefits of diversity at the top. We see more organizations working to achieve gender parity because it is both the smart thing and the right thing to do.
Through our work at WOMEN Unlimited we continue to move Jean’s legacy forward and to strengthen her mission of inclusiveness by meeting the changing needs of leading organizations and their talented women. We help thousands of women become more confident and more prepared to take on leadership roles in today’s complex business environment. We partner with major corporations to solidify their strategies for advancing and retaining female talent at a time when women make up 50% of the workforce. We help organizations foster a climate where women can develop needed career-advancing relationships, which continue to be more readily available to their male colleagues.
On behalf of all who strive for a truly inclusive corporate landscape, I have two words for Jean: “Thank you!”
Dr. Rosina L. Racioppi
President & CEO
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.