Although women entered the workforce in increasing numbers during the '60s and '70s, very few were promoted to upper-level leadership positions. Phyllis Hassard, a resident at Cedar Crest, an Erickson Senior Living community in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, is one of the few women who can say she broke through that glass ceiling.
She spent the majority of her 40-plus-year career selling advertising for high-end medical trade publications - which no other woman in the industry was doing at that time.
Making her own success
She earned her success despite explicit discouragement from a high school guidance counselor, who talked her out of going to medical school as her brother and other male relatives were.
“I wanted to go to medical school. I was valedictorian,” Phyllis recalls. “But a counselor said, ‘Phyllis, you’re going to get married, you’re going to have children. Why do you want to spend eight years of your life in medical school? Go to a really good school like Katharine Gibbs in New York [for secretarial training].’ That was one of the wrong decisions I made in my life.”
But Phyllis turned that wrong decision into a positive when she earned her business degree at Saint Peter’s College … while raising two children and working full-time.
Forging a path
Hard-working is an apt descriptor of Phyllis, who started in the early 1970s as executive assistant to the president and senior vice president at Medical Economics, a publisher of health care journals.
Later, she told her boss at Medical Economics that she wanted to sell advertising - and could do it “just as good as any man.”
He wasn’t easily convinced, noting that no other women held that job title. Instead of offering her training, he suggested that she get a job outside the company learning how to sell.
But Phyllis didn’t let that stop her. She recalls saying, “Well, I can’t do that. I’m individually raising two young children. I need the health insurance. I can’t leave a full-time job here.” She went home that night wondering how to keep her job and get the sales experience required for her desired role.
Not surprisingly, she did both. Phyllis talked her way into a meeting with the local Ridgewood News publisher, making him an offer he couldn’t refuse: “You don’t have to pay me a cent.”
After gaining some sales experience at Ridgewood News, Phyllis decided to stay, and sell, at Medical Economics, now under a parent company called MJH Life Sciences.
The ABCs of success
Phyllis swears by her personal “ABC” acronym: “Always Ask for help, when needed. Believe in yourself, that you can change a negative to a positive. And have the Confidence you will succeed by never giving up!”
She used these ABCs as she fought - even as she proved herself, over and over - to be a highly-skilled and productive sales rep. She was told to join Toastmasters International, a public speaking and leadership organization, to improve her phone and sales presentation techniques - but Toastmasters did not allow women as members at the time.
Again, Phyllis used her substantial powers of persuasion to get where she needed to be. She talked her way into her local chapter, promising the president, “I’ll sit in the back of the room. I won’t talk with any men.” She’s not sure if the organization’s national “switch” to accepting women in 1973 was influenced by her chapter attendance, but it’s a good bet, she adds.
Her awards demonstrate just how well her mantra works. In 1975, she received the first Ad Rep of the Year Award from Association of Medical Media (AMM). Then in 1993, she won AMM’s first Nexus Award.
And just this past year, Phyllis was recognized for the diligence she employed during her sales career. AMM awarded Phyllis their first-ever Leadership Award in 2021, acknowledging her “steadfast advocacy, tireless communicating, and impactful leadership in advancing both the AMM and the professional medical media community.”
Ultimately, Phyllis’ ABCs helped her earn her promotion to vice president of industry relations - and survive seven acquisitions of Medical Economics.
A rewarding life at Cedar Crest Senior Living
Phyllis was one busy woman when she moved to Cedar Crest about ten years ago.
“She’s fantastic!” says Sales Director Ray Guarino. “She moved in when we were still finishing our last buildings. She was traveling to New York City for work every day.”
Phyllis works as a part-time consultant now - and is still on the move at Cedar Crest. She enjoys serving on the marketing, dining, and philanthropy committees.
“And I’m planning to join the events and newcomers committees,” she adds. “I like the action in life here at Cedar Crest!”
Cedar Crest’s maintenance-free lifestyle makes Phyllis’s busy life easier so she can keep her focus on her many activities.
To learn about how Cedar Crest can support your retirement endeavors, request more information today!