Mary Breslin, CIA, CFE, Founder of Verracy
March 1, 2022
Happy International Women’s Day!
I wrote this 7 years ago, and I still mean every word. I am proud to say the vow I made 7 years ago I have continued to take seriously. I am more involved in women’s advancement programs than ever before, but my goal now is not just to do more myself, but to inspire others as well. If you are reading this it is likely because you are a frequent follower and I hope you take a moment to read my thoughts below (I hope they inspire you!) and that you join us for our Free Webinar Series this Friday March 4th, 10 Lessons I Learned Becoming a Female Executive, where I will share what I have learned and some valuable career insights. While my talk will certainly be focused on the women, I hope to see all our male colleagues too, as the career advice will be good for all. Plus, it would be wonderful to see the gentlemen come out to support, and learn how to better support, their female colleagues.
See you Friday,
Advancing Equality? I Wish I had Done More.
Yesterday I read Adam Grant’s article “Why I Failed to Advocate for Women: Confessions of an Ignorant Man” http://linkd.in/1wPKdYn on why it took him having daughters to finally become an active advocate for women. Despite having a mother and sister who were a positive influence throughout his life it wasn’t until he started worrying about the future of his young daughters that he began to truly see the gender inequality that surrounds us. I thought his article was honest and insightful and I commend him for putting his thoughts out there, but it was his comment about the women in his life that really struck me. Why weren’t his wife, mother and sister actively pressuring him and influencing him in regards to gender equality?
It made me think about my own life. I am by most accounts a successful woman. I’ve had a rather fortunate career and have had several wonderful mentors in my life. I should be a poster child for equality, but until I started writing this post, I had not been actively standing up for equality. Throughout my career I shrugged off the inequalities I routinely faced as the price I personally paid for working in what I perceived to be “boys clubs” – industries dominated by men: Oil & Gas, Mining, and Investment Banking. I felt it had been my choice and that I somehow should expect the behavior.
I’ve never called myself a feminist. And sadly I am not alone. As a successful woman, I have in many ways separated myself from any women’s movements because I believed that being able to survive, and even thrive in a man’s world, should be something we women should just “do”. I have done it, so therefore everyone else should be able to do it too. I now know very well, that I was wrong. When I look back at my career I have had a few mentors who greatly influenced me both personally and in my career. Two in particular I quote regularly when mentoring others. They were both men. In fact every mentor I have had in my career has been a man. Every. Single. One. What does that say?
There were a few women throughout my career in a position to provide me mentorship but they didn’t. Perhaps I was seen as an up and coming threat, maybe they didn’t think I had what it takes. Maybe they just didn’t like me. Regardless, I still believe I hit the mentoring lottery. Not only did I work for men who believed in mentoring and were willing to share with me the secrets to their success, but they also believed in furthering the knowledge, skills and career of a woman. For years I thought I was special, only in hindsight did I realize it was the individuals I worked for who were the special ones. In the past year I started my own business, Empower Audit, and I have started to see things differently. I am seeing just how much of an affect gender inequality has on women in our country. It can be very subtle but it is also very pervasive. I chose the name “Empower Audit” because I believe in what it stands for – empowering people in the audit industry. However, now the word empower has a dual meaning for me and that as successful female business owner I should also be dedicating time to helping empower young female professionals.
Since starting my business I have seen more clearly what most women endure and I no longer view the world through my own personal little bubble. I have become more active in women’s groups and the push for gender equality, but shame on me that it took this long. Women who have become successful, often against the odds, should be the biggest loudest advocates of women in the workforce, and too frequently they are not. They have a false belief that their story is someone different, or they are somehow different. If we ourselves do not advocate for women, how can we expect men to?
I believe – and have been told frequently – that I am a good leader. I am a very active mentor. I believe in people and I believe in their potential. However I never gave any special attention to the women who have been employees and colleagues. I treated everyone the same. I have parted ways with many of them over the course of the years but I have received many thank-you letters from both men and women for the mentorship I provided them, but I missed an incredible opportunity to do more for the women. What if I had taken the time to spend just a couple extra hours a quarter, or even in a year, with just the women? How much of an impact would that have made? I believe the answer is a lot. We, as women, have challenges and obstacles to overcome that men do not face; even today in the 21st century. Helping prepare women for those challenges and providing them with some of the lessons I have learned could have helped many, and I completely missed the opportunity, because somewhere deep down I believed that making it without acknowledgement that it is harder for a woman is a rite of passage, a twisted badge of honor. I no longer think that. And I am embarrassed I did not do more for the women I encountered throughout my career, but I vow that from now on I will.
Make a Difference
March 8th is International Women’s Day, and this year that really means something to me. I hope it means something to all the other successful women out there. And I hope those that aren’t already involved in the fight for gender equality are motivated to become advocates of the women striving for success in a culture that is still struggling to embrace equality. If my letter – my confession – motivates even a handful of women to do more for the up-and-coming women in their lives, how much of an impact can we have? I believe it is limitless.