Interview with Susan Bulkeley Butler by Elisa Balabram

Susan Butler

Susan Butler

Congratulations on publishing “Women Count: A Guide to Changing the World”, it is an inspiring book, showing readers how far women have come and how far we still have to go to continue achieving equality and making a difference in the world. Could you share with, a little bit about your journey?

WBiz: What was your background prior to starting The Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders?

SBB: I was a small-town girl in Illinois (I’m from Abingdon, Illinois and went to Purdue University) and became the first woman professional at Arthur Andersen & Co. I later went on to be the first woman partner of what would become Accenture, the $19-billion global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing organization. After 36 years, I retired as the Managing Partner of the Office of the CEO.

Wbiz: Why did you decide to start your Institute?

SBB: After I retired, a mentor asked me this question:  What do you want to say you have achieved in 5 years?

With some thought, I said: “I want to have impacted zillions of women and girls to be all they can be.”

Everything I have done since then has helped me to achieve this dream.  This is how I spend my time.

As a result of my aspiration, I started my SBB Institute, wrote my first book:  Become the CEO of You, Inc., became an executive coach, a virtual mentor, published newsletters, conducted workshops, spoken around the world and most recently published my second book:  Women Count: A Guide to Changing the World.

Lastly, I am beginning conversations to bring about equality for women by August 26, 2020.  This is the 100th anniversary of the right to vote for women.

WBiz: What are the services/products it provides?

SBB: The institute is the medium through which I am able to accomplish the goals outlined above. The work that went into both of my books, the speaking engagements, workshops, virtual mentoring, and executive coaching are all services tied to the SBB Institute.

WBiz: What do you consider the most difficult challenges you face as a woman business owner?

SBB: As women, we need to “think big.”  Many times, myself included, I have problems thinking big enough, and figuring out how I am going to be successful.

We need a board of advisors to help us with our thinking, to open doors for us, to provide us advice and counsel, and to provide us with the courage and confidence to achieve our business goals. Too many times we try to do everything ourselves.
We need to ask for what we want, and to figure out how to make it happen!

WBiz: Good point! My first book is about asking for help… How did any outside advisors/mentors make a difference in your company?

SBB: Our outside mentors and advisors help us to think differently, to have confidence in ourselves, to come up with different solutions and to be advocates for us.


WBiz: What inspired you to write “Women Count: A Guide to Changing the World”?

SBB: It became a habit of mine to count women everywhere I went. And the numbers didn’t seem to be changing.  Looking up into the top management of organizations, I saw even less women.  It was then I decided that I wanted to make the numbers change during my lifetime.

When I was first promoted to partner, I began taking women out for breakfast or lunch, to let them see what a woman in a senior leadership position looked like. I wasn’t a ‘man in a skirt.’  Remember this was in the 1960s. I began mentoring women and advocating for them, and became excited when women were promoted to manager, senior manager, or senior leadership positions.

I want the world to move from “counting women” to making sure “women count.” It is my passion that everyone will support my goal of ‘equality in sight for women’ by August 2020 – the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.  My book is part history, celebrating what women have accomplished to date, how women are changing the world today and what we need to do to bring about equality by 2020.

I challenge everyone who reads my book to answer my question:  How are you going to change the world for women, your community, your family, and our nation?  It is up to us to make the world/nation a better place for our having been here.

WBiz: Who should read your book?

SBB: My target initially was women.  Since women comprise nearly 50 percent of the work force, participate in or make over 80 percent of the consumer decisions and manage over 70 percent of the personal wealth in this country, we should have the power to make change happen for ourselves, wherever we are.

Men have told me that every man should read this book to really understand the environment for women, particularly if they have daughters and granddaughters.  Men need to get on board with this change to make the world a better place for their daughters and granddaughters.

Young women have said that they enjoyed reading the history of women from the early times. A student mentioned that she knew nothing of women’s history as it wasn’t in the history books she studied.  I want women to become a part of history, not just in the footnotes.  For example, do you know who really invented the cotton gin?  Read my book and you will find out that it wasn’t Eli Whitney!
WBiz: What are your plans for the future?

SBB: My focus now is to “achieve equality in sight” for women by 2020.  Women Count provides the history of where we have come, as well as how we need to bring about equality.

WBiz: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

: Be responsible for who you are and who you want to become.  You should be the ‘CEO of You, Inc.’ Like managing a company, this means managing your life to make sure “You, Inc.” is successful not just today, but also into the future. This is about putting yourself in the driver’s seat of your life, that you are going in the direction you want to go, not where someone else wants you to go.

If you are uncertain, follow your dreams.   You can do anything you set your mind to do … and you can change your mind if you find your direction isn’t working out as you planned.  However, before you change your direction, be sure to find a team to advise you because you can’t do it all by yourself.  And don’t forget to put together a plan with goals to make your dreams happen.

Ask for what you want, and make aspirations happen. Don’t let things happen to you. Susan Bulkeley Butler

For more information about Susan Bulkeley Butler and her Institute, please visit

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