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Christine Toretti's measured approach to stress Featured

10:10am EDT July 22, 2002

Christine Toretti's more measured approach to stress

By Ray Marano

The way Christine Toretti runs S.W. Jack Drilling today isn't the only striking contrast between her and her father. She also seems to have a strikingly different approach to coping with the stresses and strains of the executive suite.

While her father could react to the ups and downs with an outburst of anger or outlandish joy and exuberance, Toretti seems to take a more measured approach.

Toretti left her studies at the University of Virginia before finishing her degree, uncertain of her future and what she wanted to do. During that period of soul-searching, she decided to engage in an EST seminar, Erhardt Sensitivity Training, a faddish self-discovery technique that popped up during the 1970s which involved keeping participants awake for a 24-hour session, depriving them from basic activities like visiting the restroom, and participating in exercises designed to increase self-awareness and insight.

At the end of the session, you either "got it" or you didn't. The "it" was never really defined very concretely, Toretti says, and she notes that she isn't sure if she "got it." But shortly afterward, she says, she did come to the realization that she wanted to return to school and finish her degree in finance. In hindsight, that no doubt became one of her greatest assets as she became involved in and eventually responsible for the management of S.W. Jack Drilling.

Later, the search for relief from the pressures of being a mother, wife and corporate executive led to a life-changing experience for her and a number of her peers.

"About four of five years ago, I had just had it," Toretti recalls. "I felt like I was my mom's mom, my kid's mom and my husband's mom."

The pressures of holding down the job of chief executive officer and fulfilling her responsibilities as a mother and wife were stretching her to her limit. And to make matters worse, after several years of trying, things weren't looking much better at S.W. Jack Drilling than when she took the helm.

"As a female CEO, your girlfriends don't know what you're going through, and you have few peers who understand what you're going through," she reflects.

And she found there were few places to turn for help. Her response was to marshal the help of her peers through the Young Presidents Organization, a national group of youthful chief executives. Toretti contacted the women members of the YPO and organized a retreat, attracting 28 of her peers to the gathering. Since then, the group has held a number of retreats, and Toretti says the camaraderie with women who face similar sets of issues, both personal and professional, is of great benefit to the women who attend.

Those efforts, as well as her active role in her industry, politics and education-she is Republican national committeewoman for Pennsylvania, a board member of two major gas industry groups and a member of the governor's task force on education-earned her the Woman of Spirit Award from Carlow College this year.

Her busy schedule and experience as a business executive have given her keen insights into the challenges that women face as business owners.

Says Toretti: "I want to provide support to women who have gone through life-changing experiences and are searching for strength to come out better, more confident and willing to give in return."