Today is International Women’s Day and this year there is a strong call to #PressforProgress. Founded more than a century ago after 15,000 women marched in New York City to demand better working conditions and voting rights, today it is intended to celebrate women’s social, economic, and political achievements and to call for gender equality. From participating in marches to donning their purple attire, women (and men) across the globe will be participating in a variety of activities to celebrate the day. Here at Plaid Swan, we are proud to be led by two strong female leaders. In honor of International Women’s Day, we sat down with Plaid Swan Partner Betsy McCloskey to hear about her experiences as a female entrepreneur.
Q: How did you make the decision to start your own business?
BMC: I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The benefits and security that came with a corporate job delayed that dream a bit, but I always knew I wanted to oversee my own destiny. I wanted to create a business whose culture supported working women and working moms who needed to have flexibility in their career to enjoy two sides of their life. Women shouldn’t have to choose between parenthood and a career.
Q: Two women lead Plaid Swan. When you started your business, do you feel like that was a benefit or a detriment?
BMC: It was a benefit for us. As we are primarily a B to C firm, it gave us an advantage as women consumers make the majority of purchasing decisions in the U.S. In addition, being a female-owned marketing communications firm set us apart from traditional firms which historically have been male lead. It created a niche for us. We understand the buying decisions of women and we know how to reach them.
One stereotype we did have to overcome is that women are not good negotiators. We have a strong female leadership team at our company and that is an area we excel in. As media planners and buyers, you must be a good negotiator. I think that catches some people by surprise.
Q: How do you feel things have changed over the past seven years since Plaid Swan started, regarding gender equality in the business world?
BMC: There are a lot of women’s movements going on in the world, whether its pay equality or the #MeToo message, that have shed light on important issues. It has forced a different conversation to emerge in the business landscape. I think men and women, and women and women, are still figuring out the best way to work together, especially in boardrooms. I think in the next few years we will continue to see this conversation play out. Women are learning to support each other and to a lesser degree we are not competing, which in itself is noteworthy.
Q: The Plaid Swan team is comprised of mainly women (minus a couple awesome gentleman!), how do you feel that has benefitted Plaid Swan over the years?
BMC: That really happened naturally, it was not a conscious strategy by any means. I think when talented women learned about our culture, they gravitated toward us more so than men. I think we’ve also been able to break the stereotype that women can’t work together without conflict. We’ve been lucky in that area. I think women really excel under pressure and that has been a benefit for our company.
Q: Why do you think it’s important for students and the younger generation to see successful female business leaders?
BMC: I think they need to see that change is occurring. More women are in C-suites than ever before, more women are entering STEM professions. I personally am thrilled to see more young women taking engineering courses and earning science degrees. We all stand on the shoulders of the women that came before us and I think young women today are following suit. Every generation is one step higher.
Q: Short and sweet, what is your hope for the future of women in leadership?
BMC: My hope is for female leadership to be considered mainstream. I hope the term “leadership,” does not need to say “female” as a prefix to show gender diversity at the table. I want women to have an equal opportunity for C-suite positions and access to fortune 500 boardrooms because they are qualified for the seat, not because a quota needs to be filled or for some staged nod toward equality.