By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
WARREN -- Lynn Cavalier has always been a trailblazer for women in a traditionally male world. Now the regional president of FirstEnergy's Eastern Region has added the 2001 ATHENA Award to her list of achievements.
Cavalier, who oversees 690 employees providing utility service to half a million FirstEnergy customers, was chosen as the ATHENA recipient Wednesday from a field of 24 outstanding business and professional women from around the Mahoning Valley.
The recipient's list of career "firsts" began with her selection as Penn Power's first female manager of marketing in 1996, followed by a stint as FirstEnergy's first female plant superintendent and her present role as the utility's first female regional president.
Praised her staff: Accepting the bronze and marble ATHENA sculpture and the gold and diamond pin presented to recognize the award winner, Cavalier praised her staff and said true leadership involves "surrounding yourself with and being able to attract the very best people."
"What we get done, we get done by working together," she said. "That's the way I like to work."
Sponsored locally by The Vindicator and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, the ATHENA Award recognizes women who have demonstrated career excellence, community leadership and service and a commitment to the mentoring and growth of other professional women.
Part of an international program founded in Lansing, Mich., in 1980, the award has been presented nine times in the Valley, and more than 200 area women have been recognized as nominees.
Keynote speaker for the ATHENA Award dinner at Mr. Anthony's in Boardman was Cynthia Trudell, president of Sea Ray Group, the world's largest manufacturer of pleasure boats, and former president of the Saturn Corp.
Trudell talked about the strides women have made in business and the professions over the last century. "Until 1920, a woman couldn't dream of being president, she couldn't even cast a ballot for president," she said.
Now, she said, women own one quarter of all businesses in the United States, female-owned business sales top $800 billion a year, and the number of new female-run businesses is growing at three times the overall rate of business start-ups.
"Perhaps most significant is that it is no longer unusual for girls to dream of being leaders," she said.
Trudell said her own career demonstrates the importance of knowing when it's time to change and having the courage to take action.
Background: A native of Canada, she earned bachelor's and doctorate degrees in chemistry and planned a career as a researcher and college professor. "I was unhappy, dissatisfied. I felt surrounded by negative energy."
The speaker turned her back on the career she'd prepared for and instead took a job as a process engineer in a Ford Motor Co. production plant.
She joined General Motors in 1981 as a senior engineering supervisor and climbed through the ranks, eventually serving as a GM vice president and the chairman and president of Saturn Corp. She left Saturn in April to accept the top position with Sea Ray, a division of the Brunswick Corp.
"I love it because I feel like I can contribute something every day," she said of her career in corporate management. "Success, to me, is not about money or position. Success is having the opportunity to contribute, it's doing what you want to be doing."