Women of LeadHERship – Interview SeriesMHS Talent Development
A Conversation with President of Bayley & Bender, Patricia C. Bender
How many of your organization’s leaders are women? Have you ever worked for a female CEO? Have you ever stopped to think about female representation in leadership positions? According to a study we conducted with HR.com, the Women in Leadership Survey 2020, women are not only under-represented in the leadership ranks but gender diversity in leadership positions is not a priority for most organizations.
At MHS, we take pride in the progress we have made in providing equitable opportunities and gender diversity amongst leadership ranks. In 2020, we are proud to say females comprise of 48% of our leadership team, 60% of our executive team, and we are led by an incredible female CEO, Hazel Wheldon.
We connected with Hazel and our Chief Product Officer (CPO) Jenni Pitkanen, as well as several other inspiring women across various industries who have made the climb up the corporate ladder. Each of these women has taken risks in environments that didn’t always feel safe to do so. They looked at barriers as new challenges to overcome while building their resilience and gumption along the way. They shared their stories, their advice, and took this chance to empower each reader – no matter their age, gender, or career path – to take the risk, harness their internal power, and aim for the top.
The following is a snippet of the “Women of LeadHERship” interview, featuring the responses Patricia C. Bender, President of Bayley & Bender.
IS THERE STILL A GLASS CEILING?
WHAT WAS YOUR “GLASS CEILING MOMENT”?
HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED A BARRIER AS A RESULT OF STEREOTYPES OR LINGERING STIGMAS, MAKING YOU WORK HARDER OR DIFFERENTLY THAN A MAN WOULD FOR THOSE POSITIONS?
I have not seen a glass ceiling lately. I have a lot of female friends who are in very high positions. VP of IBM, President of University, and many friends are on several paid corporate boards.
The glass ceiling moment I had was several years ago when I worked for a publishing company. There were 7 managers and I was the only female sales manager. I had finished the previous year second in the country and the marketing reps who reported to me were #1, #2 and #3 in the country. The National Sales Manager, Vice President and President were all fired at the end of the year. They immediately brought in replacements. I received a call from one on his second day introducing himself and then said: “I haven’t decided if you will remain in management.” This new male manager was rough and tough with zero empathy. He never took the time to get to know me. He had very low emotional intelligence. After 10 months, he took me out of management. For 10 months he would ask me questions about my team over phone meetings (I was in DC and he was in Chicago). When I provided him with an answer, he would yell: “Don’t push back at me Pat.”
Our final Sales Management meeting was in person with our colleagues, 6 male managers. As always, he directed a question at me, I responded, and was once again welcomed with: “Don’t push back at me Pat.” At this time, I stood up for myself and clarified that I was answering a question that he had asked. He exploded. The meeting ended abruptly, I was invited to his office and told I would no longer be a manager. I guess that was my glass ceiling. It was a blessing in disguise – because I then started our company.
When I was in the fashion industry, I was an assistant buyer and I trained another assistant buyer. He was making $10,000 more than I was. When I asked why – they said – because he is a man and he will have a family one day to take care of. Yes – I worked harder. I worked 60-70 hours a week with low pay. I loved the fashion industry and thought if I worked hard, I would make more money.
Working for IBM was a different story. I worked hard and was compensated the same as a man. IBM’s philosophy statement was “Quality, Service and the Respect for the Individual.” I was working in a man’s world, selling to data processing managers and doing extremely well without working any harder than the men. We all worked hard and they worked with me as a team.
THERE IS A LOT OF WORK BEING DONE TO ENCOURAGE AND HELP WOMEN SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER. HAVE YOU BEEN MENTORED BY A FELLOW FEMALE IN YOUR PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT?
HOW WERE THESE MENTORSHIPS ESTABLISHED AND FOSTERED?
WHAT ARE THE 3 MOST INSPIRING QUALITIES OR COMPETENCIES YOU SEE IN OTHER FEMALE LEADERS?
Yes – I was mentored by PJ Mitchell, VP from IBM when I was a rookie Sales Rep and she was a senior Sales Rep at the time. They didn’t even use the word mentor but she took me under her wing. She would introduce me to the DP Managers and made sure he helped me. She guided me, gave me information about the person and the account. I ended up being Rookie of the Year. She was very intelligent and had high emotional intelligence. She progressed and became the VP of IBM. She is still my mentor today and helped to develop our business strategy for my company I own today. She has introduced me to several successful women who have become my close friends. She is a very dear friend and has always been my unofficial mentor.
This mentorship was fostered and established by trust and respect. She is powerful, successful, and makes any organization, board or event thrive. She knows how to strategize, implement and win.
The most inspiring qualities I look for in a leader are empathy, trust, confidence, and a creative problem solver.
HOW CAN WOMEN LEVERAGE ASSERTIVENESS WHEN BATTLING CLICHÉS AROUND BEING BOSSY?
HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO JUSTIFY YOUR DIRECTNESS?
DO PEOPLE ASSUME YOU WILL BE MORE LENIENT, KIND, AND PASSIVE RATHER THAN A FIERCE, ASSERTIVE LEADER? DO YOU BELIEVE WE HAVE OVERCOME THIS STEREOTYPE ALREADY?
My father raised me to be independent and to be myself. I have never gone into a male-dominated world with an attitude that I am beneath or less than. I wasn’t raised that way. Working as a Marketing Rep and Manager at IBM – I was in a predominately man’s world.
My mother was always a nice person. I was and am assertive and aggressive in a nice way. My values drove & drive me. I want to get a return on my investment.
As far as the stereotype and clichés around being bossy versus assertive, I never bought into it. I like working with men. They respect me for what I bring to the table, my passion and how I can help them, their teams and organization.
I never bought into having to be someone I am not. I always follow my father’s advice to “be yourself” and that is who I am: direct, assertive, bottom line, results-oriented, and I get things done through people. I have the emotional intelligence of being aware of my emotions and the emotions of others. I can manage them and then use it to get things done. I think the stereotype of “bossy” happens when people expect it to happen.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR PROFESSIONAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY BE?
You’re born to do this!
IF YOU COULD GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER, OR EVEN JUST 5 YEARS AGO, WHAT CAREER OR EVEN PERSONAL ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF?
Ok – so you have a major significant event happen in your life. You lost your husband Bob unexpectedly and it’s the worst thing that will ever happen to you. You’ve gotten through 6 years so far and you are creating a new life. Keep moving forward. You know what it feels like to have a major loss of someone who was your best friend, husband, and business partner. You have a choice. You can stay sad and grieve or you can learn to deal, cope and then thrive. It’s your choice. Work every day on being happy. Keep your attitude positive. Say your gratitude. Be grateful for what you had and have.
Never give up. Keep learning, keep growing, become an expert in your field, keep stretching, keep tap dancing and getting better. Be kind, compassionate, loving, and there to help others. Take care of yourself, walk, pray, eat healthily and keep your mind healthy. Continue to follow your passion and listen to Bob and God. They will lead you and guide you. You love what you do, you were born to do this. You help people change their lives, so don’t let setbacks, doubts, fear, worry or change get in the way. Keep moving forward. Keep believing in yourself. Work hard and smart and keep loving what you do. And most of all, have fun every day and with what you are doing. You were born to do this. This is the job God has given you to do!
WHAT’S ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE?
THE WAY FORWARD
Each of the women we interviewed has been supported by colleagues, friends, and family, but most importantly, they have supported themselves. It is vital that we celebrate the triumphs of female leaders but also to work towards a future where:
“There will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
-Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
Read the full report on The State of Women in Leadership 2020 here. Help prioritize the development of women leaders and shatter the glass ceiling once and for all.