Women CEOS of the North Shore : Carolyn Gable

We all know the North Shore, like its neighbor Chicago, is full of exceptional women.

But how many of those women rise to lead companies? And how do those few CEOs manage to rise through the ranks? According to Fortune’s 2011 rankings, there are only 12 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies—a measly 2.4 percent. While many women have broken the glass ceiling in recent years, the progress can seem slow.

So, we sat down with five local CEOs to learn their secrets, tips and ideas. Much of their advice was variations on a theme: Find work that you love. And we also got a glimpse of their daily lives—from how they juggle parenting and work to how they spend their money, and what they do when they just need to get away from it all.

Carolyn’s Success Story…
Carolyn started her working life with only a high school degree. Her family was unimpressed at her prospects, but she learned business skills waiting tables and as a customer service representative for a freight company. When the trucking industry was deregulated, the single mother of seven made a very big leap and opened her own transportation company out of her townhouse.

That was in 1989. Today the company has revenues in excess of 30 million, and Carolyn is dedicated to championing opportunities for other single moms.

Recent best …
Asked to be on the Fetzer Institute’s Advisory Council on Business Professions. The Institute’s goal is to promote love and forgiveness in the world through generous grants to organizations. Their goal neatly aligns with Carolyn’s personal philosophy.

Role model …
Carolyn’s aunt, Josephine Lawton, started at Carson Pirie Scott as a sales girl and worked her way up to a become a senior vice president. Not only did she break the glass ceiling for many women, “Aunt Jo nurtured all of us. She believed in me even when I was just a waitress and not in college.”

Failure …
“Being divorced. It’s difficult to have success in one part of your life, and have another part that you just can’t get right.”

Work/Life Balance …
She still has three kids at home: one in 7th grade and twins in 9th grade. “I’m good at juggling. If you give me 20 plates to spin, I’ll ask for 21.”

Favorite way to spend her downtime …

At her weekend home in Lake Geneva, where she loves to gather friends and family.

Giving back …
Carolyn is passionate about helping single moms succeed. Her foundation is hosting a retreat in April, “It’s All About Women,” to help women face life’s challenges. For more information, including details on scholarships, go to carolyngableretreats.com.

Life lesson …
“Life is not about you. It’s about serving everybody else. Enjoy your life, but remember we’re here to help and serve, and when you’re in that mindset, more comes back to you—more business, more love—life becomes incredibly richer.”