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The Struggles of Women in Executive Positions

Mary Grothe October 19 2022

Meet Host, Mary Grothe

Mary Grothe is a former #1 MidMarket B2B Sales Rep who after selling millions and breaking multiple records, formed House of Revenue®, a Denver-based firm of fractional Revenue Leaders who currently lead the marketing, sales, customer success, and RevOps departments for 10 companies nationwide. In the past year, they've helped multiple 2nd stage growth companies between $5M - $20M, on average, double their MRR within 10 months, resulting in an average ROI of 1,454% and an average annual revenue growth eclipsing $3.2 million.


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Mary Grothe: Hey, Revenue Radio®. Welcome to today's episode. Finally, I'm joined by one of the powerhouse CROs at our company. The one and only, as of today, female CRO who gets to power with me on client engagements. She's been such a delight to have here. I'm going to introduce you to Paralee. Paralee, welcome.

Paralee Walls: Thank you very much. I'm very excited to be here.

Mary Grothe: Yeah. Well, this is your debut. I hope it's not your last time. Okay. I'll go easy on you so that you come back. We are talking about a good topic that people need to bring more awareness to women in executive positions. We're both married with children. I have two children. I have my son. Then, I have this company. Paralee has two legitimate children, which is fantastic.

We'll talk today and expose how we got on this path. There are a lot of women that struggle. They feel like they must choose between the career they choose between having a family. I think that there is a lack of women who can successfully model what this looks like. Some try and then get burnt out, fatigued, or something shifts in the family like it did with COVID. Then, it's the default. The woman goes back home to care for the children. There was a mass exodus of women from the workforce with COVID. You also have things like maybe it's a very high-performing executive. Then, they get pregnant and try to figure out, "How do I do this?" It's hard being pregnant and working. That's a whole episode. We can talk a little bit about it today.

I've told the listeners how I had it modeled for me starting at age 22. I was a District Sales Assistant, and there were three or four top ten reps women on the team. I've had it modeled for me since I stepped foot into a professional career. I never once didn't think that I could do it. I look back; many people in my career have been men. They've modeled as my mentors. My mentors and managers were men. I saw them model some of the leadership. I saw these high-performing saleswomen. I combined the two, and I've just been like a bull in a China shop, grabbing whatever opportunity. I never thought I couldn't do it. What was your trajectory? Please share with us how it started in your professional career and what some of those pivotal points were.

Paralee Walls: Yeah. Honestly, it started before my professional career. I had two working parents. I saw my mother being a top performer as a public school teacher, day in, day out and raising seven kids. Yeah, yeah. She is so inspirational to me. She's so powerful. She's so intelligent. She never let anybody tell her that she couldn't do something. So, I always knew that was a possibility. I never saw other people, aside from my father, agree with her. Maybe, you know, she was always a little bit like a bull in a China shop. I grew up in the South, which is not a traditional women's role. I went to college in the South and nearly married a man with that same kind of thing.

Then, I went to Spain, and I met my now husband. He had that same personality. They say you marry your dad or your mom. I married my mom and my husband. He is contrary to most people and believes everyone should be that way. It gave me the confidence that I didn't have to do anything anybody said I had to do. The best example is when I applied for my first leadership role. I was going up against several other men for this Director of Marketing role at a marketing software company. I was scared. I had never managed anybody.

I was going to take over a team of people who had just gone through a riff. These people were desperate for management, strategy, and vision. I thought, "I know I can do it. I'm just scared. I'm not qualified." My husband said, "Paralee, walk in there just like a man would. Pretend you've got that thing." The male part that men have, that women don't. "Maybe swing around a little bit. They said, "We've never seen such a confident interviewer." you are amazing. You're one of the smartest people I've ever met. You must show people that, so they can see it for themselves." Sadly, you got to act like a man sometimes, and I did. I got the job.

Mary Grothe: When you interviewed for House of Revenue®, you blew everybody away. There were three women in the room. Afterward, as all women did, we went to the bathroom together. All three of us said, "Okay, can we all be Paralee when we grow up?" The interview was flawless. The presentation was excellent. Your outfit was flawless - the physical presentation, verbal delivery, quality of the presentation, and confidence. It was one of the absolute best interviews I've ever seen. What was the mental preparation at that moment? I mean, how did you come together to prep for that? At that point, were you far enough in your career where you just felt super confident and thought, "I can do this. It's already in my DNA."

Paralee Walls: I don't know. [laughing] I met you the week before and was so blown away and inspired by how you capture a room. I said, "I want to be there, whatever it is." I have never held a sales role myself. So, applying for a VP of Revenue, now Chief Revenue Officericer, made me nervous. I didn't think I could do it, but I had powerful women, you, Rachel Beisel, my mother, and my amazing husband. So what? When have you not been able to do something when you put your mind to it? Look at that presentation, the assignment that you gave me. Do you know how to do all that stuff? "Well, yeah. Then, own it." So, I did.

Mary Grothe: That takes me down another path. I've questioned here if you're a marketer and you're a great marketer. You've risen the ranks from execution into leadership and strategy. On the marketing side, your roles have played a part in sales enablement and strategy, but you haven't sat in that sales seat unless you're going to tell me something I don't know today. When interviewing with us, "Hey, this is a VP of Revenue position." It was our VP version of our now CRO. You're looking at these sales components. It's also rare that a marketer lands a CRO role.

I just sat on a training today with a group that shall remain unnamed. It was awesome. In the chat of 175 participants, people started speaking up because the presentation was talking about who a CRO is. It was very heavily sales bias, and these are aspiring CROs in training. There were dozens of marketers in there. I was proud because they were all speaking up. They said, "I'm a Director of Marketing. I'm a VP of Marketing. I work in brand strategy. Help me out here." You were in that position, staring at this role. Nothing in your definition of CRO says you can come up the marketing ranks. What's going on? What was that conversation like with yourself regarding wanting to go from marketing to holistic revenue?

Paralee Walls: When I dug down into it, I found that, no, I've never held that sales seat, but I did always try out the pieces along the way. I never asked a sales team to do something I had never done first. If I was implementing a new account-based marketing program, and I knew it would involve cold calling and a different script, I did it myself. I made 100 calls a day. I got shut down. I hate that. It's terrible. I'm not in sales because I wouldn't say I like it that much. But I knew I had to perfect it first, and that's how I like to run my role here. Make sure I can do it before I ever ask anybody else to do it.

Mary Grothe: That's super powerful. I also feel it's the best way to learn. I've had things in marketing. I came up the sales ranks. I wanted to be a dynamite CRO. When our business went holistic, it went this path. I had to learn marketing. I have a degree in marketing, but that was years ago.

Paralee Walls: It's so different what you're learning in school with what you do.

Mary Grothe: Marketing is different than it was six months ago. I was schooled by Rachel Beisel, our first fractional CMO consultant. We have to tell her. She's been mentioned twice now. She came in on an engagement, and I just felt like her plan for a workshop was written in another language. After the workshop delivery, I was stressed out and had the panic. "How am I supposed to be the CEO of this company that's going holistic? I can't even read or make sense of what any of this is." Her workshop agenda was detailed, but then she added the notes, outcomes, and action steps throughout the workshop. Then, I completed it.

When I saw the finished product, I was so flustered. I thought, "How is this going to happen?" So, how did we solve it? We rebuilt our company by adopting HubSpot's inbound methodology and rebuilding our HubSpot, our website, and HubSpot CMS. We switched from Salesforce to HubSpot CRM and built marketing and Sales CRM. I was in the thick of it, and it scared me. It was hard, and felt like I was learning a foreign language. But as soon as it started clicking, I was kicking myself for not learning it at this level before and realizing how much more powerful we could have been, but grateful that we made the pivot when we did so that we can launch this holistic in 2020. So, they are very different opposite scenarios. I don't think I would have learned it just by somebody telling me, "Yeah, I had to do it myself and dig in to understand it."

I think my proudest moment is that I would always put a disclaimer when I gave marketing advice. Especially in front of our team and clients, I'd say I'm not a marketer, but this is what I think. One day, one of our VP of Marketing pulled me aside and said, "You're a marketer. Stop saying you aren't. Your marketing strategy is solid. You understand the execution. Stop saying you're not a marketer." I just got goosebumps. How about women supporting women? I looked at her. It was meaningful. She's such a good marketer. I thought, "Oh, I did it. I can do this. I'm a marketer now."

You've done a tremendous job absorbing the sales function. One of your clients that you kicked off 109 days ago, I should have just asked, had the highest month of sales, record-breaking in history. This company has been in business for a long time and has a good brand reputation, clients, and team. Everything was good. Yeah. Paralee, the non-sales CRO, has come in. In 109 days, has led holistically to create with everyone else. I mean, it's a team effort, but to create a record-breaking sales month, yes, a marketer can be a CRO.

Paralee Walls: My secret sauce is that I love how I came up through marketing. Before marketing, I was a teacher, just like my parents. I learned there that when you look at someone, speak to them in their language. They're more likely to be receptive to educational things that you want to give them. I found that in marketing and sales enablement when I have worked in big companies with the whole sales pit. Everybody's doing the calls. I'd sit there at least once a week and sit in the pit. Do you know what they would do? Ask me questions. Paralee, do you have a piece of content for this enterprise? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Why? Yes, I do. Let me show you exactly where it is in the sales enablement folder I trained you on last week.

Mary Grothe: Oh, salespeople.

Paralee Walls: I honestly always believed as a marketer, it's marketing's job to serve sales. They are on the front lines. It's your job to enable them in every way possible. There's a partnership there. If it's content, excellent leads, lead scoring, scripts, emails, follow-ups, scheduling, or webinars qualified leads will go to. Not just scheduling webinars that people will register for. It's huge. It's a partnership. It has to serve both ways.

Mary Grothe: Yeah. In turn, sales needs to serve marketing because sales is getting front-line information from the field and prospective clients. If you're not giving that feedback loop back to your marketing team, salespeople or sales leaders, do not sit around and wonder what marketing is doing for you. Please be a partner.

Paralee Walls: Or expect that in your weekly meeting that you have a salesperson sitting in the meeting and listening to your pipeline review. That's not the place for giving feedback to the marketing team. It's too short. That's why I made sure that I was there listening to the calls and the sales team talk to each other. They're talking to each other and they're saying the things to each other that I need to hear, that my marketing team needs to hear.

Mary Grothe: Yeah, it's right. I'm going to take us back into the conversation. I need to talk about your pregnancies and work. I'll start with my short little, short story. I was a salesperson, and I had to sleep under my desk in the office. It was 2016. There was not a mother's room, a couch, or somewhere in a very large office. I was working for a Fortune 1000 company. There was nowhere. There was no extra place that I could go. So, in pregnancy fatigue, and if you haven't been there, it hits you like a two-by-four. Your body gets numb. It just starts falling asleep on you. You can't do anything. If you don't take some time to rest, it's painful, and hard to power through it.

It was hard in the first trimester, and it was hard in the third trimester. In the first trimester, I had some nausea. Of course, as a woman, you can't even tell people in the first trimester you're pregnant. I just kept saying I'm dealing with some low blood sugar problems. Come on. I also ate a lot. You try not to see things, and so I was hiding it. It's hard. Your energy levels are depleted. You may or may not have a sickness. It's just hard.

When pregnant in the first trimester, try getting a hold of your brain and thoughts. You're like literally planning out the next 18 years of your life. It is so distracting for you and your child's life. Right. Every decision is ever going to happen with this unborn baby and expected to be working full-time. I was known for crawling under my desk and sleeping. That's the only place that I had. Then, I had some "poly," I don't remember, in the third trimester. It's called "hydro." I overproduce amniotic fluid. Praise the Lord. It was not because my baby had a problem. That's usually a sign that they have kidney problems or brain problems. Thankfully, it was none of that.

I protruded out like a sideways watermelon. My feet and ankles were very swollen. It was July and August, not a great time to be pregnant. There was no preferred parking spot for women. It was a large ranch campus, so there wasn't a parking garage. It was an outside sale, so if you get there early in the morning, you get good parking.

If you have a sales meeting, you come back; you're parking a mile away. I was carrying my bag, my water jug, and my lunchbox. I would have, back then, outside sales, a projector, and a screen that I had to carry out. You didn't rent it out because you do demos on-site. Yeah. Brutal. I'm carrying all this and eight and nine months pregnant. I was just furious. It cannot be how we are treating a pregnant woman now. The cool part is that I finished number seven in the country that year and didn't work three months out of that year and in the last month. I don't think I worked more than 10 hours a week. I pre-sold my quota because I knew I was pregnant. I was able to manage it. What role were you in for the first kid, and how did you manage this inside of your company? What leniency did you get? Then, how was it different, if any, for the second?

Paralee Walls: It was wild. I was working for a large university system when I was first pregnant. I did not qualify for the regular maternity leave policy because we were a shoot-off. I built this beautiful deck. I presented it to the CEO and said, "This is what I need." Then, he said, "Yeah, that's not going to happen. Sorry." Fortunately, I got this offer to interview for the marketing software company. "Oh, while you were pregnant?" I was four and a half months pregnant when I interviewed for that job. I walk in, looking like I've eaten the giant burrito you've seen. I wore very strategic clothing because it's hard.

I was nervous about applying for a job because I was pregnant. Yeah. Ridiculous that, that even has to go through a woman's brain, but I nailed it. I got the job. I was supposed to report directly to the CEO, which I still love. He's an amazing person, a crazy man, and so full of ideas. I was super excited to work for him. Very visionary. They pivoted right before I started and said, "Well, actually, we're going to appoint our sales coach as an interim VP of Marketing for you to work under." I thought, "Oh, no."

Mary Grothe: That makes absolutely no sense. Please continue.

Paralee Walls: She, to this day, is one of my favorite mentors.

Mary Grothe: Oh, good. Okay, it made sense.

Paralee Walls: However, nope, nope. Not a great VP of Marketing. I did the job for both of us, but she was amazing. She was like, "I sit here. Paralee is doing all of this work." She was so great during presentations when I was getting bigger and bigger. She said, "See, everybody. I told you we got 2 for 1 with Paralee." She was vocal in front of the entire company about how powerful pregnant women are.

Mary Grothe: It makes me want to cry.

Paralee Walls: What a gift, right? She was stressful to work for at times. She didn't have a lot of foundational marketing knowledge. But she gave me so much belief in me, a powerful pregnant woman. Not me, who happens to be pregnant. Let's pretend I'm not a pregnant woman in the market or the workforce. I love her for that.

Mary Grothe: It's incredible. I feel like pregnancy is treated like a disability and a disadvantage. More of that, please.

Paralee Walls: Sometimes it is. You could take a nap under your desk. Sometimes you need accommodations. But women shouldn't be scared to ask for them. I'm growing a human.

Mary Grothe: I should separate disability from disadvantage. I think I was saying that disability is more like people seeing it as a weakness. Therefore, fill in the blank. "Oh, well, we can't give that project to her because, you know, she's expecting. Or I would be careful with that one because she's got a lot going on now." It's a weakness and granted now if it's rightfully so. If it truly is a very difficult pregnancy, then give the woman some accommodations. It is so freaking hard to be pregnant. I loved it, just so we're clear. I think most women love the second trimester. I loved the third until things got out of control - the watermelon belly growth.

Paralee Walls: Oh, I loved the third. I got all the seats on the bus. [laughing] I walk around leading with my belly. Yes, that's right. I just like being the center of attention. "Accommodate me, please."

Mary Grothe: That is just amazing that you were able to feel empowered.

Paralee Walls: I think this is my theme around women and leadership. When women reach out to other women and lift them, it can make a huge difference. Huge. Even more so when men reach out and lift women. We're doubly not expecting to be raised by men in the workplace. We're expected to act like men and pretend like we're not a woman to make sure that things get done or that we're heard.

Mary Grothe: Yeah, like a CEO that tears up an in-team meeting. Maybe I did that yesterday. There's just something to admit about what my DNA is. I can't remove the fact that I'm a woman. I can't remove the fact that I care. I can't remove the fact that I'm wired and built differently than the men on this team. We had an amazing meeting yesterday. We covered some challenging topics, which great leaders do. There was a moment in that meeting when the emotion became overwhelming for a split second.

It was cool because we had three dudes in full support in that meeting - full support, acknowledgment, and empathy. I fell at that moment with you, me, and three men on this leadership team fighting as one. That was super special because you don't usually have that. It's not a bash against men. We are built differently. Absolutely. There's an empathetic, compassionate component, a very caring, motherly component of women, that is not in men's DNA. It's just that they don't have that. We can't expect people to give what they don't have. However, I think men can open themselves up through awareness and maturity. That awareness point that this woman needs some compassion right now and support it. She needs to see the support. It's physical, like we are here.

It's so cool when we have men aligned on that as well. I'm glad that you've had that support. I have it, too. We haven't always had it, but it's beautiful that we are at a place where we can embrace it. We have more women here than men; take it for what it is. It's just how it is. I think we have an unbelievable blend of personality, and diversity and can approach our leadership perspective. I think it's great because we have a lot of younger women working here that can see it being modeled. I know we're grateful we had it modeled for us. I got to meet your mom.

Paralee Walls: She's amazing.

Mary Grothe: Can we bring her to the show?
Paralee Walls: She raises golden doodles professionally now. After retiring from teaching for 40 years, she couldn't not work. She said, "You know what I'll do? I'll enter one of the most competitive markets in the United States..."

Mary Grothe: Oh my gosh.

Paralee Walls: "… and have a business."

Mary Grothe: Go for it, Mama. All right. On that note, we're going to sign off for today. Yes, Paralee. We're going to make you come back. Thank you for being a guest, but not a guest, because we all own this radio show.

Paralee Walls: Thank you for inviting me into the booth. I have been looking forward to it.

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