InkHouse Remarks at Governor Patrick's Women in the Workplace Announcement
Mar 13, 2014 Beth Monaghan
Yesterday I had the privilege and honor of speaking on stage with Governor Deval Patrick in front of a packed room about his Women in the Workplace Initiative. The initiative, which he unveiled at Bentley University, will seek to “underscore the key role all working women play in business and the economic success of the Commonwealth by growing the pipeline of women poised to fill high-level positions in both the public and private sectors, and examine policy steps the Commonwealth can take to advance women in the workplace from across the economic spectrum.” Before he spoke, Governor Patrick commended a strong woman who I respect and admire very much, his Communications Director Jesse Mermell, for her role in putting forth this very important initiative.
I was asked to speak about my own experience and I was humbled by the response to what I said about the role of confidence for women climbing the ladder. A number of people asked to see a copy of my remarks, so I’ve included them below. I can’t wait to see what results from this important work.
Thank you for having me. It is a deep honor to be here among so many inspirational people and to be part of this important work.
I’m going to talk about confidence.
InkHouse unofficially started when I dry-heaved into my trashcan at work and fled to the Omni Parker House to call my dad to tell him that I couldn’t do it. I kept thinking, “What if I can’t land my first client? Then where will I work?”
He laughed, and calmly repeated the same thing he’d been telling me for a week. He said, “I know you can do this. Now go back in and quit.”
I was shaking, but I borrowed my father’s confidence and found the courage to try. So I quit my job that day to go out on my own – without a safety net. And I landed that first client.
That was in 2006 and I was a long way from dreaming big. If you had told me then that today, I’d employ 50 people and have offices in Massachusetts and California, I would not have thought it was possible. Last year I was reminded about why when I saw Sheryl Sandberg speak about her book Lean In. She said that while men tend to take credit for a company’s success, women often ascribe their success to “luck, help from others, and working hard.”
In other words, we chalk a lot up to chance. I was one of those women. It’s not attractive to brag, so we find ways around it. We brush off our accomplishments and we minimize our potential. Unless we’re lucky enough to have someone like my dad come along and convince us that we can do it.
Growing InkHouse meant overcoming my confidence challenges. I joked that we “faked it until we made it.” We knew our stuff, don’t get me wrong, and we knew it worked, but I lacked the inherent confidence that comes from success.
So I became a student of other confident people, and I started paying attention to the things that felt empowering to me when I was “at the table.”
I stopped qualifying my recommendations by prefacing them with the words “I think.”
I stopped apologizing for other people’s mistakes.
I learned to project certainty by ending thoughts as statements, not questions.
I learned to trust my instincts and to relinquish the need for constant feedback.
I learned the difference between winning and being right.
And I found a way to say difficult things in a kind way – in my way.
I spend my days now surrounded by young, smart women. PR is dominated by them -- some put it at 85%. I sometimes joke that we have affirmative action for men. But it’s not funny when you realize women hold only 20% of the management roles in PR. This experience has taught me that potential looks very different when a woman is wearing it instead of a man. It can be harder to identify.
I believe that confidence is teachable, but we need more teachers. And we need more female examples.
So I’m thrilled to be part of this amazing initiative and to be among people who believe that women can be executives who drive results, empathetic mentors, and loving mothers all at the same time.