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"We cannot direct the wind,
but we can adjust our sails"

Jean M. Otte

1939 - 2018

jean-m-otte

Jean M. Otte

1939 - 2018

"We cannot direct the wind,
but we can adjust our sails"

Founder of WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.; Friend and Mentor to Many

She was the founder and past President of WOMEN Unlimited Inc., the Women’s Organization for Mentoring, Education and Networking, a company dedicated to helping Fortune 1000 companies and other major corporations advance talented women to leadership roles.

When Jean founded WOMEN Unlimited in 1994, few Fortune 1000 companies were focused on an approach to developing, retaining and advancing the talented women in their companies. She worked diligently to help them understand that forging a more diverse C-suite was not just the right thing to do; it was the smart thing to do. She believed so wholeheartedly in the programs that she created that she self-funded WOMEN Unlimited, Inc. and in the early years took no compensation as she built out her vision. Under her leadership, WOMEN Unlimited has partnered with over 200 top corporations, including Alcoa, American Express, Bridgestone, Colgate-Palmolive, Deere and Prudential, providing development programs for over 12,000 women across all career levels. Jean stepped down as CEO of WOMEN Unlimited in 2009 but remained active as an advisor and Board Member.

According to Dr. Rosina L. Racioppi, current President & CEO of WOMEN Unlimited, “Jean was a visionary and a realist. She believed in women. She believed in helping organizations achieve a diverse talent pipeline; and she worked diligently for both.” Racioppi adds that “The on-going success of WOMEN Unlimited’s thousands of graduates is a testimony to Jean’s innovative efforts on behalf of gender parity.”

Jean’s keen sense of humor and corporate savvy often showed up in her memorable one liners. Lovingly dubbed “Thottes,” for Otte’s Thoughts, they include: “It’s not what you know. It’s who knows you know.” “Do you want to be right or be successful?” “Every day at work is a potential job interview.” ”The right message at the wrong time is the wrong message.” “Performance is not a gender issue.”

Before founding WOMEN Unlimited, Inc. in 1994, Jean Otte was an officer and corporate vice president for National Car Rental System, Inc. As the only female senior executive, she found her passion for helping women aspire to leadership roles and was a groundbreaker in supporting, sponsoring and overseeing the promotion of other women. She also held management positions with McDonald's, Gillette, and Bell Telephone System. As a past president of the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals (SOCAP), she led an international organization designed to foster and maintain the integrity of business in consumer dealings. Jean received certification as an examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1992.

She authored “Changing the Corporate Landscape: A Woman’s Guide to Cultivating Leadership Excellence:” co-authored “Women Are Changing the Corporate Landscape” and was a sought-after keynote speaker. She was widely known for advising and supporting women as they launched their own businesses. In recognition of her efforts on behalf of women entering and thriving in the workplace, Jean was honored by Lifetime Television, the Committee for 2000, Girls Inc., and the Y.W.C.A. She appeared on Wall Street Week and was interviewed for Business Week magazine.

A native of Great Britain, Jean Otte spent her youth in bomb shelters during WWII. She came to the United States while working for BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation).

She is survived by a wide circle of family and friends who, while feeling her loss, celebrate her legacy.

jean-podcast

Click here to listen to a recent podcast by Jeanie Coomber, www.jeaniecoomber.com. Jean Otte shares some valuable business - and life lessons.

Thottes (Otte’s Thoughts)

Jean’s keen sense of humor and corporate savvy often showed up in her memorable one liners. Lovingly dubbed “Thottes,” for Otte’s Thoughts, they include:

- "It’s not what you know. It’s who knows you know.”

- “Do you want to be right or be successful?”

- “Every day at work is a potential job interview.”

- ”The right message at the wrong time is the wrong message.”

- “Performance is not a gender issue.”

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