I can remember the exact moment 17 years ago when I told my boss I had accepted a job at The Richards Group. Attempting to express his disappointment and plant a seed of doubt, he responded, “Ah, come on, that old boys’ club? You don’t want to go do that. Don’t you know all you’ll be doing is shagging coffee?”
While I didn’t know exactly how to respond, I quickly said, “We’ll see,” and left him with my letter of resignation. As I walked out, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Really? Is that a thing? Are they hiring me to make coffee not brands? Am I making a mistake? Can I build a career there?”
I shrugged it off as best I could, reminding myself that I knew boys’ clubs; after all, I grew up with five brothers. I’d be fine, right?
I found plenty of men when I got here (that was every company in America), but I also found plenty of opportunities, up for grabs for anyone, of any gender, who had the ability to be successful. I also found a boss who had seen those opportunities and made the most of them. She – that’s right, she – carved out her space at the leadership table and became Stan’s right-hand, ahem, woman as she led new business development and many client businesses, including The Home Depot, for our agency.
As my boss and mentor, she showed me, and continues to show me, that you never know unless you try. She pushed me; she constantly challenged me; and without her guidance, advice, and example, I wouldn’t have grown how I did or tried what I tried. She was an absolutely wonderful example to many women and men within the agency – but she was, for a long time, one of very few female leaders here.
When I look around today after being here nearly 17 years, I love seeing how things have changed. More and more women have taken those opportunities across all disciplines and are now in leadership positions – from the head of our analytics team to the head of media to the head of our public relations team to creative group heads to brand management principals to leaders within production, business affairs, and social disciplines to our Hispanic practice.
And I love thinking about how many more there will be. As I work with and mentor many young women here, I easily see our next generation of leaders. What I see are more and more women seeing and seizing those opportunities and then, in turn, showing more and more women that it’s achievable for them too.
This is Women’s History Month. In honor of that, a thank-you to the many brave and strong women who came before us blazing trails and setting examples for us to follow – including my boss and forever mentor, Diane Fannon, who selflessly taught and championed me and many others. A thank-you to the many women I currently work with who offer much support, inspiration, and encouragement daily. And a nod to the future generations of women, including my daughters, who will do much greater things because of the women who have come before them.
Oh, and one more thing. Remember my first boss’s coffee comment? A couple of years after I started at The Richards Group, I took my first trip on Stan’s plane. It was a huge deal to me, but the real moment came when Stan got up and offered me coffee. (I don’t even drink coffee, but I said yes anyway.)