Lititia Myers-Gray, president and chief executive officer of Beryllium Limited, is not your typical CEO. A woman at the helm in a heavily male-dominated industry, and continuing to shatter glass ceilings throughout her journey, she wants women to know “that you can achieve just about anything in life if you are willing to put in the work”. She isn’t saying it’s easy: “You’ll have to play a little politics, navigate shark-infested waters and suit up in your spiritual armour from time to time, but the proof of your desire is in your pursuit of it.” Having been a part of the finance and technology business process outsourcing industry for 17 years, Myers-Gray spoke with Flair on what it is like to be a woman in business.
What would you say is a popular misconception about women in business, and how would you respond/address that?
Stereotyped feminine traits are unjustly labelled as ‘weaknesses’. Women should feel comfortable showing up every day as their whole self, not worried about backlash for doing what comes naturally to them. For example, when a woman exudes confidence and is assertive in her delivery, she is labelled as ‘abrasive’, while a man is lauded for displaying the same behaviour. When a woman is passionate about a matter, she is labelled as ‘emotional’, while a man in a similar position is revered for his authenticity and enthusiasm. To address these and many other workplace inconsistencies, we all need to play our part in speaking out against subconscious gender bias, men and women alike.
What are some of the key factors that have impacted your journey thus far?
I have had some critical crossroads throughout my professional journey, ones that have caused me great pain and distress emotionally, mentally, and physically. For each difficult experience, I navigated to the next level shortly thereafter, overcoming the obstacle and pushing through with invaluable lessons in tow. Some of these lessons have changed my life permanently. As my journey continues, I have grown to not only accept, but embrace every challenge that comes my way. The ones that rock us to our core are oftentimes the most rewarding. Adjusting our mindsets to [seek] the lessons and growth opportunities that emerge from uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying situations is the ‘level-up’ we all need to unlock our greatness.
Can you name an aspect of your journey that, without it, you wouldn’t have seen yourself at the place you are now?
I am from St James and lived in Montego Bay with my family and a solid support system until adulthood. While in Montego Bay and shortly after my son was born, I applied for a vacancy in Kingston and received an offer. I had another job offer in Montego Bay that, at that time, was considered a great opportunity in the BPO sector. I looked at both opportunities and chose the harder one with significant risk. I moved to Kingston with my six-month-old son, without any clear idea of how I was going to get settled without my support system in a new industry and a new role. While I knew I was putting myself and my son in a potentially difficult situation, I saw an opportunity, and there was no room for failure. I took many risks in my career. My move to Kingston and away from my home town was life-changing. I doubled down and sacrificed a lot, working harder than everyone else and spending time to learn as much as I could. That period of fear and uncertainty reconfigured my DNA and unlocked a Lititia that I didn’t know existed. Having overcome that, I knew that I could take on the world.
What advice would you give specifically to girls/women who have set limits for their career goals?
The first thing I would want them to understand is that limits are quite often self-imposed. If you do not accept them, then there are no limits. You can achieve just about anything in life if you’re willing to put in the work. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy; you’ll have to play a little politics, navigate shark-infested waters and suit up in your spiritual armour from time to time, but the proof of your desire is in your pursuit of it. A woman’s financial independence is incredibly liberating. Why settle when there is so much more waiting for you? More financial freedom, more education, more travel and experiences – more of everything. In the words of Steve Jobs, “We are here to dent the universe. Otherwise, why else are we here?” There’s only one you. So, use your unique skills and capabilities to make your dent!
What is one thing you wish you knew earlier in your career?
The worst thing that could happen might turn out to be the best thing that could happen. Your career will have big challenges along the way that may distract you from the bigger picture of your journey and goals. Do not lose your motivation. Get up from every disappointment and force yourself to bounce forward. Spend time managing your energy and mindset, and push through.
What message would you like to be received by any young woman watching your career journey from the outside?
Accept the reality that you own your life and its outcomes. Take full responsibility for what you want, and be deliberate about your goals and aspirations. Do not allow anyone to place you in a box or tell you who you are. I have had several instances where successful individuals would tell me what type of role, industry and impact I should pursue in my career. In all cases, they placed me in a box with their limitations, while I viewed my potential as limitless. Jumping into challenges while learning and growing along the way has been my approach to moving ahead. You will never be fully ready for any role. However, knowing and building on the strengths you already have, while maintaining openness to opportunities for growth and improvement, will help you move forward with the confidence to succeed. I always believed that no one truly knows my full potential and what I can offer…not even me! Give yourself space and permission to try new things and surprise yourself.
What kind of difference/impact would you like to make?
I would like to help more people around me, and within the organisation I lead, to self-actualise and live better lives for themselves and their families. My goal is to help build organisations that prioritise the whole person and not just the benefits they can extract from them in order to access greater business value. My hope is to inspire others to create environments where everyone wins in the facets of life that matter most to them.
What advice do you have for women looking to grow their own business or within the company they work for?
Learn the business inside out. With knowledge, confidence will come, and decisiveness will be natural. Understand finance and the numbers of your business. You don’t have to be an expert at everything, but you must have a sound understanding of the key inputs that make your business and market profitable.
What do you believe is the most admirable thing about simply being a woman?
Resilience. Being able to persist regardless of challenge or stereotype. Underestimated and expected to fail, we continue to win and outperform others who have been given a head start, using all our unique traits to deliver unprecedented results repeatedly.
Could you name a woman who has inspired you?
Indra Nooyi, former chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo, embodies the impact great leaders have when a vision is clearly defined and communicated, [the] courage of your convictions is displayed, and the power of your people is unleashed. In a time when Indian girls were being taught that it was enough to just get married, Indra Nooyi was breaking all the barriers to conquer the world. Indra was regularly ranked in the top 100 most influential women in the world and ranked 13th on the Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2014. With my own personal aspirations to lead a Fortune 500 company in the not-too-distant future, I am inspired by Indra’s resilience and her rise to success. It is proof to me that I can achieve a similar path through hard work and dedication to purpose. There are simply no limits; so much more is possible.