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Mason, Linda 1954-

MASON, Linda 1954-

PERSONAL:

Born 1954, in United States; daughter of a homemaker (mother) and an internist (father); married Roger Brown (a business consultant); children: three. Education: Cornell University, B.A.; studied piano at Sorbonne, University of Paris; Yale School of Management, M.B.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Boston, MA. Office—Bright Horizons Family Solutions, 200 Talcott Avenue S., Watertown, MA 02472. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER:

Booz-Allen, New York, NY, consultant, 1984; Save the Children Federation's emergency program in Sudan, codirector, 1985; Bright Horizons Family Solutions, cofounder and president, 1986-98, and chairman, 1998—; author. Also cofounder of Horizons Initiative, a nonprofit serving homeless mothers and their children in the Boston area. Prior to joining Booz-Allen, directed large-scale food program for refugee children in Cambodia. Serves on the boards of the Horizons Initiative, Boston Globe, Mercy Corps International, and Yale School of Management Advisory Board. Yale University, trustee.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Ernst & Young/ USA Today, Entrepreneur of the Year Award, 1996; Redbook, Mothers and Shakers Award honoree, 1998; Working Mother magazine, Twenty-five Most Influential Mothers in America Award; Fortune selected Bright Horizons as one of the "One Hundred Best Companies to Work for in America."

WRITINGS:

(With husband, Roger Brown) Rice, Rivalry, and Politics: Managing Cambodian Relief, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1983.

The Working Mother's Guide to Life: Strategies, Secrets, and Solutions, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS:

Linda Mason combined her management skills with her passion for making a difference in the world to become cofounder of Bright Horizons Family Solutions child care and early education centers. In 1986, in an era when mothers were entering the workforce in huge numbers, Mason and her husband, Roger Brown, saw a dire need for quality child care. They launched their entrepreneurial venture, which ultimately became the world's largest employer-based, work-site, child-care provider. Mason's and Brown's prior experience managing feeding programs for refugee children in Cambodia and the Sudan, along with their consulting experience for large U.S. firms, prepared them well for their venture. Their experience in Cambodia led to their coauthored book, Rice, Rivalry, and Politics: Managing Cambodian Relief. Mason's second book, The Working Mother's Guide to Life: Strategies, Secrets, and Solutions, evolved from her personal and professional involvement with day care and as a working mother.

Mason's passion was piano. However, while studying under a professor at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, she realized that she probably would not be among the elite few pianists to attain top concert career status. While in France she began volunteer work with North African refugees and discovered an entirely new passion. She returned to the United States, entered Yale School of Management to get an M.B.A., believing it would help with her international pursuits. During her second year at Yale, she met her future husband and his friend, Neil Keny, who that summer would volunteer in Cambodian refugee camps in the aftermath of the killing fields of 1979-80. Mason became inspired and decided to join them. Mason and Brown stayed much longer than planned, but eventually returned to take up consulting work—Mason with Booz-Allen in New York and Brown with Bain Consulting in Boston. A year later Mason moved to Boston where her consulting work allowed her time to travel to the Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

Mason and her husband-to-be were less than enthralled with their consulting careers. "I was so uninspired that winter," Mason was quoted by Mark S. Albion in Making a Life, Making a Living e-newsletter. "I felt trapped on a treadmill." The couple decided they must make a change and, when the opportunity arose, they were ready. After becoming reacquainted with Keny, now head of African operations with Save the Children Federation, he introduced them to David Guyer, also with Save the Children and who had recently returned from the Sudan and Ethiopia, distressed with the extent of suffering there. He said he had two million dollars in funding to begin a relief organization and would Mason and Brown commit? He needed an answer the next day. Mason and Brown knew their answer within two minutes, and three weeks later they were in the Sudan directing an emergency fund providing relief to 400,000 victims of war and famine. The success of their operation was so great that, after US AID spent six months monitoring their operations, they were commended for having the most superior health and nutrition program in the country. Their model became the new standard for all other efforts in the Sudan. Albion wrote: "Little did they know that their success in the Sudan would lead to the 1986 launch of their 350 million dollar public company, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, the industry leader in on-site corporate child care."

After a good harvest in the Sudan, Mason and Brown returned to the United States and established new goals. Neither wanted to return to consulting, and their career decisions would be based on something personally satisfying and fulfilling. They acknowledged four principles that would be the foundation for their future: they would work together, they would begin something of their own, they would use their business and social services skills, and they had a deep passion for children. Researching their options, they discovered a need for quality child care in corporate facilities because so many mothers were entering the workforce. Backed financially by Mitt Romney of the venture capital firm Bain Capital, Bright Horizons Family Solution was established and began operations in two corporations—Prudential Real Estate and the Athenaeum Group.

In spite of their success, no other corporation followed suit. Educating employers about the benefits of such a program was the next step. However, the recession of the mid-1980s hit and the future looked dim. With one child of their own to think of, and extremely stressed, the couple took one of their long evening walks to discuss the situation. "We said that the worst that could happen is the company would collapse, we'd sell the house, go back to Africa, and return to relief work with children," Mason told Albion. "The more we thought about it, the more we both felt that the worst looked pretty good." Reinspired, the couple set out to raise funds for their business and, after a slow summer, were remarkably successful. In 1997 they took the company public, merged the following year with the number two provider in the nation, and even expanded into primary education.

While researching her book about working women, Mason told Albion: "I am one and our business is in response to working women. I've got lots of ideas on how to do it." Mary Frances Wilkens, in Booklist, described the resulting The Working Mother's Guide to Life as an "all-encompassing manual" that will help working mothers to attain a balance in their lives. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented of Mason's book: "In some instances, however, her utopian ideas conflict with reality." The reviewer felt that—although she included poor working mothers in her book—Mason's advice is more easily attainable by women with greater financial resources. Kay Brodie commented in Library Journal that Mason's tips and strategies take into account a myriad of beliefs and personalities, and concluded: "Without a doubt, Mason's book belongs in every library and many homes."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2002, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of The Working Mother's Guide to Life: Strategies, Secrets, and Solutions, p. 270.

Everett Business Journal, May, 2004, Brendan Shriane, "Life after baby: moms talk about the tradeoffs of working or staying at home," p. A12.

Fortune, February 1, 1988, Susan Caminiti, "On the Rise," p. 98.

Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Kay Brodie, review of The Working Mother's Guide to Life, p. 116.

Publishers Weekly, November 4, 2002, review of The Working Mother's Guide to Life, p. 82.

ONLINE

Making a Life, Making a Living,http://www.makingalife.com/ (March 25, 1999), e-newsletter, Mark S. Albion, "Linda Mason: An Inventive Live; A Life Alive; A Bright Horizon."

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