Speech: Aedhmar Hynes, 2016 Agency Honoree

HANNAH MCGOVERN: Good evening, everyone. It’s my honor to introduce the recipient of the Agency Mentoring Award, Aedhmar Hynes. She is a true example of what a great mentor can be. Her advice and support have been invaluable to me as a young woman at the outset of my career, and with great ambitions for the future.

I am an analyst at a private equity firm that invests in environmental opportunities. I help direct capital to projects that have the potential to maximize resource efficiency and achieve exceptional returns in the process. In other words, I have a career that didn’t even exist when Aedhmar began hers.

So, you might ask yourself, how can an executive in the public relations industry, a business that’s been around for almost 100 years, help me along my path? How can a woman who is the CEO of a global agency that specializes in high-tech clients be a mentor to someone who is following such a vastly different path?

You might even ask why I’d want to listen to a mentor who shrugged me off when I suggested she might make her next car an electric car. Everyone has a Tesla, she told me, just before she bought a Porsche. I don’t have any illusions about following in her footsteps, either– communications just isn’t for me. Aedhmar could tell you, because she’s told me more than once that I’m a bit too curt, a little too cynical to be successful in a business built around delivering positive messages.

And if you think all that makes this a difficult task for a mentor, I’ll give you one more. Aedhmar has had perhaps the toughest mentoring job of all for the past 23 years because she’s not just my mentor, she’s my mom. In spite of–

[LAUGHTER]

–in spite of the usual tension between mother and daughter, my mom has been an incredibly powerful mentor to me. When she asked me what I wanted to do upon graduation, I told her this. No matter what I do in my career, I want to be a leader, to make big decisions, and to chart my own course. What I’ve learned over time, and from watching her, is that being an empowered woman is tricky in a world dominated by powerful men.

She never put notes of support in my lunchbox in the morning or was there to welcome me home from school with a fresh batch of cookies. Nothing wrong with moms who do this, but I feel I got something much more, and more important to me. I stood outside conference rooms as a small child with my face pressed up against the glass watching her command the room. I traveled with her all over the world to witness the new offices she had built, and the respect she had gained globally. I was by her side when she got exciting calls that she had won Fortune 500 clients, like IBM and Xerox. And I stood next to her in line at customs when an officer saw the many stamps in her passport and said, wow, you must have such a wonderful husband who’s willing to pay for you to visit all of these exotic locations.

[LAUGHTER]

It was such a thrill to watch her flash a somewhat tense smile and say, I run a global agency, sir. Despite this chaotic life she led, Mom always had the time to answer my questions, even if they weren’t, how do I change the world? It’s just as important to be able to ask as a woman, how do I learn to apologize less? How do I become more assertive in asking for a raise, a promotion, or just to have my ideas considered? How do I command respect without demanding it? And I know Ron had said earlier, let’s not get political, but I’m about to ignore him.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, these questions may be even more difficult to answer. The glass ceiling did not shatter. And as a young woman, and an environmentalist, I’m more fearful than ever. And that makes every woman’s mentor so much more important today. I am grateful that even as my confidence in the country may waver, my confidence remains strong that my mother will continue to answer my questions and guide me through these times that will be harder, not easier. That tenacity and her example is woven into the fabric of who I am today, and who I hope to become. And that is exactly what a great mentor does, and why she is so deserving of this honor.

[APPLAUSE]

AEDHMAR HYNES: Try following that. So, thank you, Hannah. And thank you to Betsy Plank for her example to all of us. And thank you to Ron [INAUDIBLE] and the other members of the Plank Center Board who selected me for this recognition.

Being a mentor is really important to me, and very much part of who I am as a CEO and very much part of who I am as a person. So, I am deeply moved by the honor tonight. And I’m especially honored to be introduced by my daughter, the first person I ever mentored.

Hannah, I remember when you were younger feeling a sense of sheer panic when people would ask me, and often challenge me on how I could achieve work-life balance when I was building a global company but I was also raising four children. I quickly came to realize that I didn’t have balance. I never have. Balance suggests some sort of split between work and life, black and white– almost as if your work were not part of your life. I have never been able to think of it that way.

To me, time is a work-life blend, which meant I brought my family to work. And I brought my work, and often my clients to my home. So instead of those lunchbox notes, Hannah, I remember exciting you with stories of these really cool technology companies that I was pitching, whether it was Schneider Electric, or Cisco, or any of the others, or the foreign places that I travel to, about really exciting people that I was meeting. And as you grew older, I was able to do more than just tell you. I showed you. And I was able to give you a sense of what you could accomplish.

And that’s what I think mentoring is all about– about what the possibility is and what people can accomplish. Now, I don’t want to sound like that it was easy. It was really hard. And there have been so many things, like those notes and those soccer games, that I didn’t get to turn up to. But I think that’s OK because the notion of women having it all is kind of a ridiculous and outdated notion. This may be 2016, but there are still only 24 hours in a day. Women still have to deal with blending the time for the many complex and often many messy aspects of their lives.

And yes, there will be many, many people who are like the customs agents, who don’t visualize you as an executive, or indeed, as an independent. So, for the women, we mentor, let’s remember that they face challenging tasks. We have to help them succeed in their careers while they juggle the expectations men don’t always face and do it in a business world that is often built by and for men– to help them see what’s possible and believe in what they can do.

But for the men we mentor, the challenge is different but no less important. The task isn’t simply to help them in their careers, but also to help them change the future of the workplace that they share with women like Hannah– to help build a new generation of men, who enable, support, and promote their wives, their sisters, and their colleagues. And I will continue to do this for one simple reason– I wouldn’t be standing here today this evening was it not for the advice and the support from all of the mentors I had over the years. I’m so grateful for them for helping me to make the right decisions, to overcome all those mistakes I made, and to learn to chart my own course.

I’ve learned from some of the very best. And I also learn from those that I mentor every day, including my family at home and my family in Text 100. And that’s what makes a good mentor– always learning, always improving, always charting your own course, but always keeping it real. Thank you for the honor.

[APPLAUSE]


 

 

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