Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Not just 'that blind person'": Petrou

Today's New York Times "The Boss" profile looks at Karen Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics and a former Bank of America vice president, who writes about managing her career and her retinitis pigmentosa, a form of blindness that began when she was 18 and developed into a significant disability in her 30s. (In her own words, she's "not just 'that blind person'.") As with many women interviewed for this series, public speaking came up not once but twice with Petrou. About her one of her high school jobs, she notes:
I also worked at Philipsburg Manor, a restored Colonial house in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. Nothing prepares you for public speaking like appearing in a colonial style dress and mobcap in front of 50 or 60 sixth graders staring you down.
Now that she's managing her own company as well as her disability, she sees shifts in how her audience perceives her:
I speak to a lot of groups about finance. Years ago, I’d get the reaction, “Oh my, it’s a girl.” Audiences have become more educated over the years, and there are more female executives in finance now. These days, the barrier I encounter is, “Oh my, it’s a girl with a big German shepherd.”
Check out more of the Eloquent Woman series on inspiration for women speakers.