Christie Hefner, 30, daughter of the man who gave us Playboy and all of its various enterprises, is a pioneer in the board room. As one of the few women heading major American corporations, she is attempting to respond to the changes in the work force by embracing management techniques that reflect respect for employes, their private lives and their obligations to their families.
"If you establish a philosophy that people who get ahead are those who are never home with their families, you're not going to have a very healthy company or very healthy workers," she said in a speech Monday to the Washington chapter of Women in Communications.
Hugh Hefner's only daughter was named president of Playboy Enterprises in April of last year, after eight years of on-the-job training in the corporation. Her credentials are impressive: She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year at Brandeis University, and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and American literature. She worked for a year for the Boston Phoenix and then went to work at Playboy in 1975 as special assistant to her father, who is chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the corporation.
In her speech, she tackled the delicate issue of who she is and what she does by describing herself as an oxymoron. "Like jumbo shrimp. Or for those who travel a lot, airline food. Some people think being a woman president of Playboy enterprises is an oxymoron. Being president of Playboy is not as easy or ideologically pure as editing Ms. But here I am in Washington, D.C., and from my point of view it's not as hard as being a Republican woman right now."
The company, she points out, has given financial support to such feminist causes as abortion rights. "No matter how you feel about erotic pictures," says Hefner, "it's a company that has a pretty good track record on women's issues."
Christie Hefner runs a corporation that does about $200 million in sales annually and employs 1,700 people in its four divisions. The publishing division puts out Playboy and Games magazines and the nine international editions of Playboy and is, she says, the largest overseas distributor of American magazines and books. The video division does programming for cable television, video cassettes and the Playboy channel. Playboy products division puts out everything from sunglasses to athletic footwear, selling domestically and overseas. The fourth division runs the 15 Playboy clubs and has a half interest in the Playboy hotel and casino in Atlantic City. Playboy lost money last year and she does not expect to make a profit this year, but the company is moving out of the leisure time entertainment field and focusing more on communications, she says, and its stock is going up. "This is our year of transition."
While the company does not offer job sharing, it has a permanent part-time work force of people who work 20 or 30 hours a week. Hefner's mother, for example, works four days a week in the personnel department, which allows her to adjust her days off to those of her husband's. Flextime exists throughout the company.
Full-time benefits are offered to part-time employes in response, says Hefner, to the needs of mothers with young children who wanted to work part time. "They wanted to continue to have their seniority and profit-sharing and access to benefits. We had the feeling people going through that transition should continue to have their time in the company and their seniority be recognized." She thinks in the future even more workers will want to be employed only part time.
She points to recent studies showing that corporations that succeed are those that make their employes "feel that they are part of something bigger than their little job." She measures the success of the approach against absenteeism, tardiness, the time it takes to do a job and frequent attitude surveys. "We have found the more responsibility we give back to employes, the less of those other kinds of bad performance problems occur."
Back in the 50s, Playboy was in the vanguard of the sexual revolution, which, with its emphasis on family planning, helped enable women to go to work. Hefner says that American society has not done anything to reflect the changes and pressures this has created in families.
But she, at least, is doing her part.