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From Court to C-Suite

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The book The Board Game: How Smart Women Become Corporate Directors by Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire is a game plan for success in careers, as well as in the journey to the corporate board room. One of the more unusual profiles of the 58 women corporate directors in the book is Stephanie Streeter. She is among a very small club of women CEOs of large companies -- Libbey, Inc., the largest glass tableware manufacturer in the western hemisphere. She also knows all about game plans.

Stephanie was a four-year starter on the varsity women's basketball team at Stanford and had a basketball in her office at Avery Dennison where she went to work after college. When Forbes magazine was doing a story on the company, the photographer was in the office of this young 40-year-old executive, spotted the basketball and had her pose in her business suit with the ball. The photo landed on the cover of Forbes!

It was spotted by the CEO of Parker-Hannifin Corporation, a Fortune 500 company in Cleveland. When he approached Stephanie to be on his board, she said she thought only CEOs were invited to be board members. "I'll never forget what he said to me," Streeter says.

"He said in good humor, 'The board told me to get a girl, and you were the best one I could find.' "

This was nearly 20 years ago when few women were on F500 boards. She certainly had the credentials, having had a meteoric rise at Avery Dennison and, at that time, was running its largest division, the $800 million Office Products Group. But she probably wouldn't have come to the attention of Parker-Hannifin without that cover photo, and, probably most importantly, the basketball.

One of the main reasons boards have been slow to recruit women is that boards were like men's clubs, made up of the CEO's friends and friends of friends. They were plainly uncomfortable about bringing a woman into their midst, as evidenced by the snail's pace at which women have been recruited.

But three cheers for Parker-Hannifin's board members who were looking for a woman to join them so long ago! Stephanie was a leader at Avery Dennison, with spectacular operations experience and responsibility for profit and loss -- a key factor in board recruitment. Obviously she was a "team player"! Her history as an outstanding Stanford athlete cinched the deal.

Since then, Stephanie has gone on to serve on the Green Bay Packers Board, which she loved but had to leave when she moved from Wisconsin to take the Libbey job. She also served on the U.S. Olympic Committee from 2004 to 2009, becoming CEO, responsible for leading day-to-day operations for the USOC.