CEO Club Briefing


Excerpt from remarks to the Boston College Chief Executives Club  

June 11, 2019

TAKEAWAY: Determination

I think as human beings, the key to a successful life is determination—relentless determination. You never, never, never give up. Irrespective of your gender, your color, where you’re from, you just never give up. And I think that that mental fortitude, I think, stood all of us in relatively good shape.

You know, I was thinking about this earlier today for reasons—when I got out of business school, I wanted to go work for a steel company, and I happened to be seven months pregnant. So I walked in to my interview, and I think it was the world’s fastest interview. In about 30 seconds, we’re not hiring. And I got the message—we’re not hiring you. You can’t let that stuff get you down. All right, fine. I’ll get over this condition and live to thrive.  

I think some of it is fortitude. I think some of it is also a compassion and empathy. Sometimes, when I’ve experienced people who have been—they’ve been off-put by me—by the way, gender is the last place I go. I’ll assume that if I put someone off or someone is ill at ease, that I hold the mirror up to myself first and see if I’ve done something to put them off. And if all my other options have failed, I’ll go to gender.  

But sometimes what I’ve observed is people can be threatened. If it’s a woman coming into an all man’s world, that can be a little threatening. So I think if you meet people with compassion and understanding and a fair amount of tolerance, and you work hard and you’re determined, over time, you win them over. They’re compelled to be a part of whatever team you’re a part of. Men will follow women. Men will follow women, and they’ll work with women if they believe that you are as committed, as tough, as relentless—and by the way, I have always put the team above self, and I think that that can be very affirming to others. So sometimes that can break down barriers. If you’ve been advocating something outside of your own space, sometimes I think people can say, "OK, maybe she’s for real, and it isn’t just the girl thing." I got plenty of promotions where I’m sure they said, "ah, she got it because she’s a girl." Well, maybe. But I’m going to work hard enough to prove that I’m good at it.