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Well-known executives to women: Keep it 'authentic'

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When it comes to winning in business, “authenticity” matters, two women at the top of the business world told a crowd of hundreds Tuesday afternoon in Indianapolis.

Media mogul Martha Stewart and advertising tycoon Charlotte Beers held true to their words.

The duo—longtime personal friends—casually bantered with each other as they spoke to about 1,000 people at the Indiana Governor’s Conference for Women.

They regaled the room with stories of Stewart planning Beers’ wedding. They sobered the tone by addressing Stewart’s federal white-collar criminal convictions in 2004.

Through the discussion, they maintained that they built their empires on the notion that they needed to act like themselves, not duplicate someone else’s style of leadership.

“You think sometime … when you’re in front of a group, you need to have something of a presence, when the most powerful presence is what’s going on raw and untapped in here,” Beers said as she tapped her chest. “That’s why I spend all this time trying to pull that out of you guys. That’s why I think we were lucky, Martha and I, because we were just too raw to tame.”

Beers—a Texas native who worked her way into the executive ranks of advertising agencies JWT, Tatham-Laird and Kudner, and Ogilvy and Mather, before she became an undersecretary of state—said something as basic as keeping her Southern accent was instrumental in her career.

“I was considered something of a one-off,” said Beers. “And they thought, 'oh she won’t matter. She won’t get promoted.’ So I didn’t have any rules to limit me. I didn’t have any expectations. I didn’t stop being a Southern girl on the way up.”

Calling people “Darling,” was a big help, she said.

Stewart corroborated that Beers' accent helped.

“Charlotte wasn’t quite ‘Fatal Attraction,' but close to it,” Stewart said to a response of laughter.

“And still is by the way,” she tacked on.

The women did not hold back in explaining their own difficulties.

Stewart, a stock broker-turned-caterer-turned-media personality, spoke frankly of her criminal convictions in 2004 that resulted from using inside information on a stock trade in a pharmaceutical company three years earlier. She spent five months in federal prison as part of her sentence.

She said she relied heavily on family and friends to get her through the difficult period.

“After you’re exposed, like I was in the press so terribly in 2001 and 2002, I went through my own 9/11, a personal tsunami,” she said. “You learn that it’s OK. It’s OK to really, really be yourself, because nothing—nothing—you do [otherwise] will really make a difference.”


 

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