Secrets in the Restroom
The story about Idearc (formerly Verizon Information Services) successfully raising $2.85 billion in high-yield bonds and $6.5 billion of bank debt takes place in an unknown ladies' room. The point of The New York Times column is that big Wall Street deals aren't just about men anymore, but this one was especially unusual because every major banker and executive was female. In fact, this is certainly one of the largest deals ever completed by an all-women team.
We salute this group, and believe that more women will be successful in the Yellow Pages industry. It is a grueling ordeal to go to 16 cities, hold 27 one-on-one meetings and talk to 370 potential investors, as The Times reported. Recently Ken Clark has been writing about the most powerful women in the Yellow Pages in YPTalk. Still, women are underrepresented today. Each year we try hard to get women to speak at our conferences but are too often unsuccessful.
Back in November 1995, The Kelsey Group held a conference titled, “Marketing to Women Online.” In those days, the percentage of men on the Internet was easily twice that of women, and our objective was to find ways to reach this reluctant market. It turned out that the conference became more of a career and networking opportunity for women who eventually made up 80 percent of our conference audience. Keynote speakers were Nancy Evans, President, iVillage; Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority, Author; and Jean Gaddy Wilson, President, New Directions. After Ms. Smeal's presentation, a group of guys went for a health break to the men's room, and we found ourselves huddling to discuss our reactions to her presentation. Truth be told, we were more comfortable there than out in the open.
Sometime during that conversation we all had an a-ha moment realizing that often a minority group needs a place to talk. In 1995, a group of guys felt comfortable expressing ourselves in the men's room. In 2006, a group of women were able to do so in the ladies' room. Of course, we were talking about a speaker at a conference. The Idearc team was discussing a multibillion-dollar deal.