Women of Beyonce’s generation, who may be tempted to take their opportunities for granted, would be wise to study the life of Madison Avenue legend Mary Wells Lawrence, whom Features Director James Reginato visited at her lavish home on Mustique for his profile of her this month. Now 73, Lawrence has penned a memoir of her career in advertising, a groundbreaking life during which she crashed through the glass ceiling decades before the term was even coined. Founding Wells Rich Greene in 1966, she became the first female president of an agency and the first female ceo with a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
To this day, though, she is stili furious at what or who led her to open WRG: a male boss who tried to worm out of a promise to make her president of his agency, offering a lucrative $1 million contract as a consola tion prize. “It’s not my fault, Mary,” he told her, “the world is not ready for women presidents.”
But Lawrence was not one to be brushed off. “I could have killed him,” she rails nearly 40 years later. “I was so overwhelmed with anger I was out of control. It rushed över me. What does being a woman have to do with it?, I thought. I never thought of myself as a woman in business. I was just a being who was having enormous success.”
And, it almost goes without saying, Lawrence is having the last laugh. So is Becca Cason Thrash, a Houstonian who did the own your own business thing (public relations), then married rich and is now far too busy being a professional socialite. As European Editör Kevin West discovered when Thrash and her entourage arrived in Paris for a three day celebration of her 50th birthday, Thrash is no more likely than Lawrence to take no for an answer. There was, for instance, a little matter of skirting the very exclusive restaurant Le Grand Vefour’s pohcy of not closing for private parties. Thrash’s solution: reserve ali but three tables under various names. The maître d’ was not amused.
The men so rarely are inspiration.” Fortunately, students will not be graded on punctuation or spelling.