Fearless Leaders Series: Beth Bengtson
Updated: Mar 7, 2021
As CEO and Founder of Working for Women, Beth Bengtson knows that real change happens when business talent supports non-profit missions, when women achieve economic independence, and personal passion meets organizational focus. She started Working For Women to provide a new operating structure that taps into all these pillars. Today, her organization is powered by a dual mission to elevate women in the workforce AND enable businesses to be a force for social good. We are thrilled to feature Beth in this month’s Fearless Leader series, especially since March 8th is International Women’s Day 2021 and Beth is the perfect embodiment of IWD’s #choosetochallenge theme.
Self-advocacy is one of the toughest areas for women based on Wet Cement survey findings—yet if we don’t advocate for ourselves, we won’t be able to fulfill our missions. What is the biggest professional challenge you had to overcome and how did you do it?
Earlier in my career I believed it was my bosses’ job to ensure I was adequately promoted and compensated – the system would support me. Then I was working for a firm that had just gotten bought, and I had an opportunity to advocate for what I wanted on the other side of the transaction. That enabled me to see that 1--I was the only one who knew what I wanted; and 2--no one else was going to advocate as well as me for that.
We love Webster's definition of courage: "Strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty." What advice would you give to your 13-year old self when it comes to acting courageously?
There are two quotes I like to share when it comes to courage which would frame my advice. You have to have conviction to overcome the fear and each time you do that the courage muscle builds.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” ~Ambrose Redmoon
“Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.” - Brene Brown
We believe confidence is beautiful. All of us stumble sometimes when it comes to feeling confident in our careers. What do you do to overcome self-doubt or Impostor Syndrome when it starts to creep in?
Great question. This is another “muscle” I have had to build during my career. When those moments arise, I pause, take a deep breath and then look at what is next on my list that I can accomplish. I go back to my strategy of taking baby steps as that is how any goal is accomplished. Alternatively, I will take a moment and reflect on all I have accomplished instead of focusing on what I feel I am not accomplishing. And if all of that is not working, I will reach out to my support system to help me reframe how I am feeling.
Assertive and effective communication is a key skill for success. What is one of the most important attributes of your communication style that has helped you achieve your goals?
I have found clear and frequent communication to be a key success factor in my career. Building relationships requires they are nurtured and that requires not only listening but ensuring that the other knows you have heard them. It is important to manage people’s expectations and that requires good communications whether written or verbal.
What advice would you give to your 13-year old self, when it comes to being a confident communicator?
I would tell my 13-year-old self, do not be afraid to have those hard conversations--they can turn out to be some of the best conversations in your life and result in some of the best relationships in your life. You will never know what the outcome will be unless you try. Being a confident communicator is just like courage for me – it is a “muscle” you need to build.
Networking is critical for career growth and success, especially for women. What is your secret to building win-win relationships?
I believe for many women we get caught up around this term networking as it feels very transactional. I tend to reframe “networking” as opportunities to meet new people and build new relationships. The secret for me in building those new relationships is communication as that is the foundation for any good relationship.
Wet Cement research shows that women are not as comfortable as men when it comes to taking control of difficult conversations and feeling empowered at work. How do you overcome any barriers—internal or external—to take control in challenging situations?
Do not be afraid to have those hard conversations as you will never know what the outcome will be unless you try. In many cases, afterward you will realize that it was not a hard conversation but instead an opportunity to learn and grow.
We want to celebrate the accomplishments of Fearless Leaders. When you look back on your career, what are you most proud of?
The moments I am most proud of are those where I overcame my fear and took the step forward. The only moments I regret were the ones where I allowed my fear to get in my way.
We are profiling Fearless Women but it’s important to recognize that men can be critical advocates and mentors for women throughout their professional journey. What have you learned about gender roles and inclusivity over the course of your career?
I have learned there are benefits to both genders and the best organizations know that. The best world is a gender balanced world where men and women are supporting each other. Each gender bring different skillsets to the table and the best organizations are ones that embrace that and harness that. I have found men throughout my life to be some of my best advocates and teachers and would not be here without them. It was through the male influences in my life that I gained the courage to act and the confidence to go along with it.
What is your ‘mission’ or the work you are most excited about that you are currently focused on?
What I am most excited about it is scaling our work at Working for Women across the U.S. My passion is to help more women attain economic independence and become fearless leaders in their communities.
Learn more about Working for Women and what you can do!