Businesswomen offered tactics for thriving in male-dominated offices

Businesswomen may still have a way to go to achieve equality, but learning to accept and work within the system is the key to success. That was the message sent by several speakers at Thursday's inaugural Women's Leadership Conference sponsored by the North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.

Some 120 people, almost all women, showed up for the all-day event at the Rio. They heard advice on subjects including dealing with difficult people at work and succeeding in a male-dominated business world.

Author and business coach Debra Benton said she has counseled both men and women on ways to improve their business and personal relationships. She advised audience members to change their approach with difficult co-workers. Mannerisms such as positive facial expressions and friendly "appropriate" touches on shoulders are often effective, she said.

The author told attendees that they need to expect and offer "acceptance" to other workers.

"Not everyone will like you, just like you won't like everyone else," Benton said.

Benton said she was fired early in her career when she was a management trainee at a major computer company. Her boss then told her she did good work, but "didn't fit in with the old boys network."

Jan Jones, former Las Vegas mayor-turned-Harrah's Entertainment executive noted she has had to deal with that attitude during a career and offered a frank message to fellow women in business: Learn to deal with it.

"I think the most important message to me is just because it isn't fair doesn't mean it isn't the standard and you don't have to work with it," she said.

Jones said attendees can learn some lessons from Hillary Clinton's historic-but-failed presidential bid.

"She was constantly battling the perception of being pushy and aggressive, which are (both) good qualities in a man," Jones said of the Democratic senator from New York.

Jones, now senior vice president of government communications at Harrah's, said she had to deal with the double standard while in local politics. She drew a comparison between the way the media perceived her and how it perceives Las Vegas' current mayor, Oscar Goodman.

"The media has characterized me as aggressive, imperious ... hot-headed, flamboyant and opportunistic," she said. "When that is applied to Oscar that makes him a character. It makes me bitchy."

Contact reporter Valerie Miller at or 702-387-5286.