In honor of Women’s History month and International Women’s Day, Siegel+Gale gathered #BeBoldForChange panels of senior female marketing leaders in New York and San Francisco to discuss their proudest achievements, both as women and business leaders, and Margaret Molloy, Global CMO, moderated the discussion.

A focal point of the discussion was women in leadership. As part of the program, these leaders were asked what advice they’d give to their younger selves. Here’s what they had to say:

Photo (left to right): Margaret Molloy, Global CMO, Siegel+Gale; Rani Yadav, Senior Director of Marketing, Blue Apron; Pepper Evans, former VP of Branding and Member Engagement Marketing,  American Express; Trish Sarno, Enterprise Brand Director, CVS Health and Amy Dunkin, SVP of Marketing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

Margaret Molloy, Global CMO of Siegel+Gale, opines on the value of networking and developing one’s professional reputation.

Women often forget that reputation is your most enduring and important asset. My advice would be to build your reputation, first by having excellent performance at work and second by cultivating a network of people with whom to share information, connections and learnings. 

To get the most from networking, diversity your connections; both for the purpose of learning from as many illuminating sources as possible and being known in as many communities. Cultivate your network by keeping in touch with people and adding value where you can. When it comes to networking, doing your homework—the followup emails and favors—pays off! 

Trish Sarno, Enterprise Brand Director at CVS Health, reflects on whom you should look to for mentorship. Find someone that’s going places and have that person mentor you.

Leaders aren’t necessarily those with the titles—the VPs and CMOs aren’t necessarily the ones you should emulate—leaders are in unexpected places. Find the influencers who go about their day changing companies quietly, and influencing by getting people to see that their way is better. Look for people who have the qualities that you admire, and emulate them. Additionally, don’t pull the ladder up after you. Women sometimes think there’s a quota for us at the top, and there’s not. Bring up those who help you as you ascend in your career, because you certainly didn’t get there on your own.

Rani Yadav, Senior Director of Marketing at Blue Apron, discusses the need to communicate one’s accomplishments across your organization.

Women in particular tend to put their heads down, do good work and expect that their achievements will be communicated and appreciated. That has always been my strategy, and while it has been pretty successful, it hasn’t always worked. I think communicating your achievements around the organization can be quite helpful. It can feel quite self-serving, which is why I don’t do it very often. But despite that, it’s important to do, and shouldn’t make you feel like you’re being boastful. Start thinking about how you’re contributing to the organization, and communicate that. If you don’t, then you’re inherently not on people’s minds, and that’s a problem.

Amy Dunkin, SVP of Marketing at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, remarks that women need to cut themselves some slack.

Stop feeling guilty. Perfection is hard to achieve, and none of us are perfect, so we have to give ourselves a break every now and then. There’s always going to be more to do, but sometimes it’s best to leave and return to it tomorrow. When you do decide to do that, don’t apologize! We have teams that support us, and that we in turn support, for a reason. Give yourself a break, and don’t feel guilty—my husband certainly doesn’t!

Pepper Evans, former VP of Branding and Member Engagement Marketing at American Express, notes the need for women to know their own mind and express themselves with confidence.

Trust your inner voice, and go with your gut! Have the confidence to know your mind and speak up because you have the answers, and for other people to know that, you must comport yourself with confidence. Particularly when you’re in a male-dominated environment, it’s important to speak frankly and advocate for yourself. Additionally, don’t only look internally for opportunities for growth and support. It’s a big, wide world—take a look outside. If you don’t, you may find yourself a bit stuck.

Photo (left to right): Andrea Ward, CMO, Magento Commerce; Laura Goldberg, CMO, LegalZoom; Margaret Molloy, Global CMO, Siegel+Gale; Heather Combs, Director of Global Branding, Adobe; Christine Heckart, CMO, Brocade Communications and Lisa Kane, Senior Strategy Director, Siegel+Gale.

Heather Combs, Director of Global Brand Marketing at Adobe, discusses how one should listen.

It took me a while to realize that if I approach every conversation as if I know nothing, I’ll learn much more. I was hearing everything in the voice in which it was spoken, but the thing we don’t realize about language is that our brains don’t think in words; they think in bits and bytes. We attach meaning to words and that’s what decodes them for us. Then we put them out into the ecosystem, and people grab and unpack them in their own language. Ultimately, we automatically apply bias because that is how our brains are supposed to work. We can come up with very different perspectives, but that doesn’t actually make conversation contentious.

Laura Goldberg, CMO of LegalZoom, remarks on a piece of advice she often shares with her male peers.

I talk to my peers (who are all men) about being aware of the women on their teams that are doing great things, and who may not necessarily be sharing their accomplishments. I see it in my younger self—I thought I should put my head down, do good work and that I would be acknowledged for it, but you have to do a little self-promoting to be noticed.

Christine Heckart, CMO of Brocade Communications, thinks back to her own experience figuring out how to be her authentic self at work.

You can’t do your best work unless you’re your true and authentic best self in the office—amazing work requires you to bring out your best self. And yet you have to do it in a way that is culturally appropriate for your environment and aligned with what other people expect of you. The other thing I would say is, you are your brand. How you treat other people and how they see you matters—and every touchpoint counts. Especially now with social media, it’s more important than ever.

Lisa Kane, Senior Strategy Director at Siegel+Gale reflects on misconceptions around what can make a woman successful at work.

Number one, don’t be afraid to ask for the things you want and have earned. The worst someone can say is “No.” I’d also tell my younger self that I don’t always have to be agreeable. I’ll probably always be one to play more of the peacemaker role, but it’s okay to take a risk and to be the contrarian if you feel strongly about something. If you treat people with respect—even while disagreeing—they’ll respect you back. And if you’re wrong, the way you handle that is much more important than the mistake itself.

Andrea Ward, CMO of Magento Commerce, reflects on her teenage daughter and the way younger women tend to communicate with a lack of confidence.

Something that I see in younger women is a lack comfort with showing self-confidence. It’s in everything they do; the way they talk and the way they communicate their accomplishments. I don’t know why, but women tend show less confidence when stating facts or expressing important points of view, and often feel they have to justify speaking up. My advice is to be confident in what you bring to the table, and don’t be embarrassed to show that confidence.

These quotes were edited and condensed by Victoria Holbrook and Raisa Reyes.