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Women march up ladder of success
Shirley Says
Dana Lewis - photo by Photo provided.
By Shirley Hiers

 “A woman’s place is barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.”
At one time, this was thought to be the only acceptable occupation for a woman. The good news is women have overcome that stereotype. Today’s woman can hold her own in the workplace, along with raising a family.
When the first generation of women entered the workforce, they succeeded by imitating the ambitious and aggressive traits of men. They began playing by men’s rules. Ironically, when women became good at “the game,” they were labeled with an unsavory name.
Women today know they need not adopt male ways to succeed. These women are take-charge types who take responsibility for themselves and others, as well. The business world no longer belongs only to men.
Emily Gansereit and Amy Lane have been in business for the past six years and are co-owners of Richmond Hill’s Hill of Beans coffee shop. Prior to Hill of Beans, they each held executive positions with other companies, in fact, Amy still does.
You will enjoy the casual atmosphere in coastal Georgia’s first Seattle-style coffee house. Emily has a way of making you feel right at home. Amy invented and perfected the popular “Amy Drink,” a blend of ice cream and espresso.
These ladies do not think it’s still a man’s world. They said, “Especially not in our industry. Statistics show the number of women in business and executive positions continue to increase at a higher rate than men.”
Charlene McInerney has been in the finance business for 15 years and is the manager of 1st Franklin Financial. She firmly believes society has come a long way accepting female bosses in the work force. Her down-to-earth, personal bedside manner with staff and customers gives her a definite edge and separates her from “the pack.”
It is Charlene’s opinion that double standards still exist in the work arena. She said, “A motivated, goal-oriented woman cannot be stopped and will overcome any obstacle in order to achieve success.” Things do not just happen to this woman – she makes things happen.
According to Charlene, her business expertise and financial skills were learned, and inherited, from her dad, Chuck Sumerlin. She has no problem withstanding the heat in tough-call situations.
Whitney Cowart is the operations manager of Richmond Hill’s PALS (Playing and Learning Specialists). The modern 20,000-square-foot building with capacity for 267 children allows parents to view their children via the Internet while at work or deployed. Their Pinnacle educational curriculum provides a structured, age-appropriate learning environment.
On a normal day, Whitney works between 11 and 12 hours and sometimes on weekends. She is passionate about her career and gets great satisfaction seeing happy parents knowing their child is in her care. As a mother of two, she understands the importance of top-quality professional childcare.
When Whitney said she supervises 31 women, I couldn’t resist asking if she believed it would be easier to supervise men. In her candid style she said, “Yes. Typically, women are more emotional and tend to get involved in their co-workers personal lives. Some women have multiple roles, which adds to the stress of their work life.”
To be “business savy,” is it learned or inherited? Cowart is fortunate to have parents as mentors. Her mother worked in the educational field for 11 plus years and her father owned a business. The combination of their knowledge, with Whitney’s administrative experience, resulted in a dynamic businesswoman.
Dana Lewis owns Ella’s and Marker 107 Restaurant in Richmond Hill. She and her sister, and partner, Catherine Bowen are successful businesswomen. Ella’s is a shop with unique gifts, bath and body products, gourmet food baskets, pet accessories and seasonal gifts. Marker 107 is a seafood restaurant on the Kilkenny Road.
I asked Dana if she thought she was predestined to be a successful businesswoman. In her charming unpretentious manner, she replied, “I wouldn’t refer to myself as successful. I was driven to make my own way and fortunate to have the ability to do so.”
Easier to supervise, men or women? Dana replied, “I have found it has less to do with gender and more to do with personality. A confident man doesn’t have a problem taking directions from a woman.”
At the end of our conversation Dana shared, “Having your own business presents many challenges…I’m just grateful to have the opportunity. The greatest reward is it allows me to spend free time with my son Graham. I have the flexibility of working from home or taking him to work with me.”
April Groves is a broker and owner of Lighthouse Leasing and Management and an associate broker of Keller Williams. She is a beautiful, multi-talented force to be reckoned with.
Having no brothers and being the oldest of three girls, April’s dad raised her to work hard. She didn’t know there was a difference in a man’s work or women’s work. As a young girl, she thought nothing of fixing chicken coops or digging drainage ditches. April said, “I grew up knowing there wasn’t a whole lot a man could do that I couldn’t.”
April spent 11 years in the U.S. Navy. Although she was happy in the military, a career in real estate was a better fit for her family. She stated confidently, “When I began doing something different, I found out I was just naturally good at it.”
April doesn’t consider it a man’s world. She explained, “Some of my greatest mentors have been men. I’ve never had a male supervisor that was unwilling to teach me. I think it’s the character of a person more than their gender.”
Prefer to supervise men or women? April answered, “Both have their challenges. One must recognize there are inherent differences in them. Actually, younger people are harder to supervise than older people. Younger folks are still trying to figure out who they are and what makes one the boss.”
Is “business savvy” learned? April said, “It is learned. You put the next generation at a disadvantage if you tell them they have to be born a certain way. You have to know what your talents are and focus on them.”
I think April spoke for all of today’s highly successful women when she said, “It’s good to know my destiny does not depend on someone else. If it all falls apart tomorrow, I have what it takes to put it back together.”

Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. She can be reached at

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