Interview Transcript

Rebecca, what are the biggest challenges for you, in climbing the ranks in larger institutions, with a heritage like Beam Suntory, or even Coca-Cola, as a woman?

I give my parents a lot of credit. They were really great about raising a kid that just wanted to play in everyone’s team. I think, if I could have played in the NFL, I might have. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but my parents were like, if you want to go outside and play with the neighbors and play football, go play. They were never like, girls don’t do that. I have that little bit of a foundation that has helped me a great deal.

The other thing is, I was really raised to be a global citizen and, as a global citizen, you have to learn how to play in many environments. I think my bigger challenges were working in different countries. I learned as much there, as being a female. Sometimes, being a female, I feel very lucky that I’ve had very good experiences. Only in a couple of moments, did I feel disadvantaged or my voice not heard, maybe the way my male counterparts were. It’s a tremendous moment because, as females, we are, I think, naturally empathetic. I think we are managing multiple stakeholders very well, in our daily lives. I think there is a whole lot that is ensuring that female voices are equal to male voices, in any business environment is really important.

But some of the lessons I had are that you have to recognize the cultures that you are in. If you work in many parts of Europe or the United States, female leadership may be further along than it may be in Japan. Or in some of the places I was working in Latin America. I didn’t ever get mad about that. I just used that to give me power, to dig into my empathy and say, maybe I’m here today, to just help you advance that conversation. To prove the point that there is more to what this room should look like. It was not uncommon that I was the only female in the room. After you make your jokes about having to go to the bathroom more than everybody else and all that other stuff, once you get all your jokes out, I think you just have to be prepared, like everybody else in the room and ask for parity. There is nothing that we can’t do that our male counterparts can do, in business. But I never got mad about it. I just used it as a moment to advance the conversation.

What bit of advice would you have, for those young women today, who feel as if they are not getting their voice heard, in a boardroom, or the office or ever, amongst male counterparts?

I would advise them to really lean in. If you feel as if you left a meeting and you were not heard, go back at it. It’s a bit like falling off a horse and getting back on. You’ve got to stay with it. Secondly, like I said, recognize context. You may be dealing with a leader who is 30 years older than you, who was raised in a different era, who has an entirely different perspective. I would suggest that they are doing the best they can. If that’s not good enough and if they can do better, you have an opportunity to find a way to tell them that. Maybe it’s not in front of the other 20 people in the room, but I would encourage everyone that we don’t have any room for that anymore, especially in this society. Again, if you’re in a different place and the norms are different, you may have to recognize where you are. But we have to move on from that conversation. We, as women, have to help that conversation move forward and not just look to others to pull us forward. We have to move it forward.

We have to hold other people accountable, but we have to do so in a kind way, that’s got some empathy. In most instances, people are doing the best they can.

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