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Female-run firms have own style

It's easy to see that Stand Advertising isn't a traditional, corporate-style advertising firm.

Maybe it's the fact that employees play Guitar Hero, the karaoke-style video game, at work. Or Stand's book club, in which everyone reviews the same, business-themed book.

"They're great events, and they're fun, and the point of them is to make sure that we continue to promote team-building," said Janet Stanek, owner and founder of the Amherst advertising firm, which has 25 employees and is about 70 percent female.

Stanek is one of a number of women in this area who have started their own businesses, stocked with female employees, after years of working for established companies.

The women didn't do this to escape male colleagues, and they didn't set out to hire a mainly female work force, but they said they wanted the chance to run a business in a different way.
"I think there are different things that we do to make work less of an onerous-type atmosphere," said Ginger D. Schroder, the lead partner of Schroder, Joseph and Associates law firm, which specializes in corporate labor and employment law.

The women business owners say they strive to provide employees a work-family balance, offer initiatives that encourage team building and try to make decisions collaboratively.

"I think just by virtue of the environment, women understand they can succeed here. There's no glass ceiling. That's very energizing," Stanek said.

Stand Advertising had the bad timing to open on Oct. 1, 2001, just weeks after the 9/1 1 terror attacks.

"We went our first six months revenue-free," Stanek said. But the firm eventually took off and drew in a base of clients that now includes Erie County Medical Center and Fairgrounds Gaming and Raceway.

Stanek offers her employees flexibility in their schedules, so that they can leave work to tend to sick children, for example.

"But in return, I get a dedicated staff," one willing to work long hours when necessary, she said.

Schroder and Linda H. Joseph started their boutique law firm in December 2001. Schroder previously worked for large law firms in Manhattan and Buffalo that were traditional, male-managed firms.

She started her own firm because she wanted to work at a place where the driving motivation wasn't billing as many hours as humanly possible.

"I don't want people to be here if they don't need to be here," she said. "They need to be balanced. And I don't think you're getting balance when you're billing 2,000 hours a year."

Schroder Joseph emphasizes its female management in edgy ads -- such as one headlined "Ever Argue with a Woman?" -- that have drawn praise and criticism.

Men have worked for the firm, but today it is exclusively female, with six lawyers and three paralegals.

Her firm also offers its employees flexibility in their work schedule and starting times, and a relaxed dress code on days when employees aren't in court or meeting clients.

"I don't care if you come to work in jeans or shorts. I draw the line at pajamas," Schroder said.

-- Stephen T. Watson

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